11 November 2010

150 (121-123)

121.  Like a lot of American Jews, my childhood identity was predicated on being an American kid.  I had Jewish *grandparents* but in the home we were a family that lived in Milwaukee, we visited Madison regularly, and we rallied around sports and politics.  Faith and ethnic identity were not prominent values.  It was different for my grandparents' generation.  They represented a different engagement with the world, one that was rooted in particular expressions of identity and a more self-assured relationship to the European past.  Their fading sepia photographs bore no real relationship to our set of American Heritage magazines that were on our living room bookshelves.  Truly, George Washington was a more relevant founding father than Abraham from Haran.

But this number, One Hundred and Twenty-One, stands on its own as the sole inheritance of a nascent faith.  I learned it at a young age, having been told by my grandmother that it was her favorite psalm.  For most of my childhood, I could remember the first line:  "I will lift up mine eyes unto the mountains:  from whence shall my help come?"  We didn't have mountains in Wisconsin; this was a far-away thought.  But it was a spiritual glance back to an ancient past and an aspirational gaze into the future. 

I've often mused at how instead of running for office or writing for a newspaper--the two things I thought I'd do when I was in high school--I wound up as a rabbi serving a community.  "Behold, He that keepeth Israel doth neither slumber nor sleep."  It's as if one day I *woke up* and found myself doing my life's work "beneath the shade of God's right hand," that apparently, had been there all along.

122.  "Our feet are standing within thy gates, O Jerusalem!"  What is enough space in Jerusalem?  Is every set of new houses, in order to make the case for Jewish hegemony over our holy city, essential?  Isn't effective control of security through police and military enough?  Why continue to build in areas that are clearly Palestinian simply in order to assert control, to make a point that we are already strong enough to make?

"Jerusalem, that art builded as a city that is compact together."  It's charm is the close-together intimacy of its stone, it's people.  Continued expansion is not in its character.  "Jerusalem thou art a sprawl of aggressive geo-political posturing" just doesn't sound right.

Despite the diplomatic efforts of President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to explain to Prime Minister Netanyahu that America acknowledges Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, there remains the incessant need to build in Arab areas of the city only to assert further control that is already in place.  And the character of Jerusalem will change for the worse.  It's really quite tragic.

"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, may they prosper that love thee," Jews and Palestinians.
"Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces," Jews and Palestinians.
"For the sake of the house of the Eternal our God I will seek thy good," Jews and Palestinians. 

123.  "Be gracious unto us, O Eternal, be gracious unto us; for we are full sated with contempt."  Glen Beck blabs on in ignorance about the Holocaust; the Boycott Israel movement (which is really a One State Solution movement meant to hasten Israel's particular disintegration) has a love-fest in my neighborhood; Iran forges ahead with plans for a bomb that could destroy the Jewish state.  We're surrounded with those who have contempt for us.  We really are.  Sometimes I'm amazed at how little has changed in three thousand years. 

My only objection here is that the psalmist didn't end with the line he opened with:  "Unto Thee I lift up mine eyes, O Thou that art enthroned in the heavens."  I would have felt better ending there than remembering that there still are those who wish we would simply fade away.

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