03 November 2010

150 (106-108)

106.  "Who can express the mighty acts of the Eternal or make His praise heard?"  We should always remember to pierce our sense of celebration--when we sing of the Macabees' heroism ("Who can express the mighty acts of Israel...") and remind ourselves that the song of Macabees' victory, made contemporaneous by linking the psalm's sentiment with the historiographical invention of Jewish heroism for a modern Jewry, is just one such invention.  Others have long deconstructed the Macabee myth and Jeffrey Goldberg is writing a whole new book about it, and I bet Orin Hatch reads it!  Still, it's always important to remember the Classical Judaism ethic that justice and righteousness are the base of God's throne, not war and anger (though the latter two get much play in the Psalms and elsewhere.) 

"Happy are they who guard the Law, who do acts of justice at every moment."  Despite our betrayals in the wilderness, great and small, it is the assiduous duty to what is right that renews the Covenant each day.

107.  "Give thanks to the Eternal because He's good and the whole world is filled with His lovingkindness."  A formulaic phrase, here employed to express gratitude for the return from exile, for being brought forth from darkness and the shadow of death.  "The upright fear Him and rejoice!"  And do you know what else?  "The wise ones guard this idea, they daily consider the mercies of the Eternal."

It could always be (and in fact has been) worse.

108.  This line interests me greatly:  "Give us help against the adversary; for vain is the help of man.  Through God we shall do valiantly; for He it is that will tread down our adversaries."  The soldiers sublimated sense of service means, from one measure, feeling he's fighting a holy war, which our own era has shown us to be a radically dangerous idea.  And yet, a sublimated sense of service means precisely that that same soldier is bound, to ethics and decency despite the inhumane manifestations of having to take another life.  In my pulpit, I know some very righteous men who served, with distinction and with faith, in the U.S. Armed Forces during the Second World War, the Korean War, Vietnam and Iraq.  Even in their aloneness, they remained close to God as well, which rooted their values as they made their way through the darkness and the valley of the shadow of death.

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