17 November 2010

150 (136-138)

136.   "Give thanks because God is good, for His kindness lasts forever."  It sounds much better in Hebrew.  Still, I like the idea of goodness and kindness twinned, pillars at the Gates of Forever.  The poet speaks of Wonder.  And he conceives of the Heavens as having understanding.  After laying out these strong principles--kindness and goodness emanating throughout the universe forever along with a great sense of wonder and understanding, the poet reiterates, recapitulates, or reorganizes certain deep mythological tropes of Jewish life and thought:  the Creation; the Exodus; the Wandering; and the Return to the Land of Israel.  These re-tellings are meant to activate in the Divine a sense of that aforementioned "goodness and kindness" so that God will "answer us in our lowly state" and "deliver us from our adversaries" and "feed us bread."  These aren't "air-quotes" but actual themes, building blocks of a Tradition.  Know them.  Rely upon them.  Be freed by them, into them.  Forever.

137.  Exile makes us weep.  And turns us Jews into an Ur Source so Reggae singers write songs about our texts.  "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.  Upon the willows in the midst thereof we hanged up our harps.  For there they that led us captive asked of us words of song, and our tormentors asked of us mirth:  'Sing us one of the songs of Zion.' "  We had a willow tree in our front yard and I used to go there for comfort when young.  After the folks divorced and we sold the house, I thought of that tree.  It wasn't next to a river, just a small prairie ditch but I'd see frogs and rabbits and an occasional snake.  I never wept but I lay down there.  And now I remember that Zion.  And in my own cunning I never forget.  Believe me, my tongue cleaving to the roof of my mouth is not my problem.  I'm certain there are some who believe it should be.   I remember a summer wind through my bedroom window; and ball games on the radio; and my dog asleep under the birch on a warm afternoon.  But I never wanted revenge, or to "dash thy little ones against the rock."  I hate how religion sometimes intrudes on a good song and ruins it.

138.  Strength.  Uncommon fortitude.  And thanksgiving.  "I will give Thee thanks with my whole heart, in the presence of the mighty will I sing praises unto Thee."  On VE Day in 1945, the photographer Paul Goldman captured Jews dancing in the streets in Tel Aviv, celebrating the Allied victory over German and Italian Fascism.  It's one of my favorite photographs of all time.  "In the day that I called, Thou didst answer me; Thou didst encourage me in my soul with strength."  Sometimes, rare as it may be, things come together.  When it does:  sing; dance.

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