Still, it's an odd feeling to have someone dislike me this much. All four sides of my car are now afflicted with the scrawls of my personal pursuer. I'd rather be *unfriended* on Facebook.
I prayed up on the roof of the Shul today, always a pleasant experience--to see the neighborhood come to life from above; to the city greet the day in the distance. Perspective.
From five stories above the sidewalk below, voices were faded and indistinguishable; Moses, towering above the corner of Eighth Avenue and Garfield Place was stolid, immovable. Moses got to see God's back; the best I can hope for is the back of an early twentieth century concrete sculpture of the very man who conveyed to his people more than 3000 years ago, "Don't make an image of God." So I listened; and in the hearing, averted my glance. That's when I saw the new art form on the side of my chariot.
What did I do to deserve this? It's possible, in the religious sensibility, to be responsible in some way, is it not?
It was time for Tahanun.
Eternal, do not punish me in anger, do not chastise me in fury.The immediacy of cause, response, action--in the relationship between man and God in this psalm--speaks to a core theological issue for me. This is the God I believe in. He listens; He understands; He sees and knows what I yet often do not understand; and so my personal suffering is usually sublimated to a greater lesson I hope to be fortunate enough to learn.
Have mercy on me, Eternal, for I languish; heal me, God, for my bones shake with terror.
My whole being is stricken with terror, while You, Eternal, how long!
Eternal, turn! Rescue me!
Deliver me as befits Your faithfulness.
For there is no praise for you among the dead;
in Sheol, who can acclaim you?
I am weary with groaning; every night I drench my bed, I melt my couch in tears.
My eyes are wasted by vexation, worn out because of all my foes.
Away from me, all you evildoers, for the Eternal heeds the sound of my weeping.
The Eternal heeds my plea,
The Eternal accepts my prayer.
All my enemies will be frustrated and stricken with terror;
They will turn back in an instant, frustrated. -- Psalm 6
And so I think about my car. The swastika; the broken wiper; the FU carved into the hood; and now one, two three, four, five scratches on the driver-side doors. "I am weary with groaning; every night I drench my bed, I melt my couch in tears." Why does this problem persist? Cameras and a police report might get at the symptoms. But the cause is for me to discern.
This morning I focus my prayers on this line: "Away from me, all you evildoers, for the Eternal heeds the sound of my weeping." I imagine an active banishment of not only the external but the internal causes of my not-right-ness. And only when I can confront the evil that is near me, in me, can I unstop the ears of the seemingly distant God, causing Him to hear my pleas.
This is a difficult theology. It is a fundamentalist theology. But it speaks to me in times of trouble. I don't accept its every tenet; I don't subscribe to it fully; but I pray its words, I hear its voice, I use its flame of Truth to light the darker recesses my own being, questioning what more I might do to build a world where such things elude not only myself but others as well.
Hard as it may sometimes be to accept, suffering teaches us that in fact, we can always do more.