Thursday, April 15, 2010

Jerusalem Shiur: When Reality and Tradition Clash

Click here for the audio recording. Click here for the source sheet.

I would rather tell you a story. It’s about a man who stumbles in his prayers. Day after day, every time he is about to say אהבה רבה אהבתנו [with a great love You have loved us] he must stop. He Must.

Every word turns into an obstacle. He feels a shadow enveloping his gaze and weighing on his breath. He feels pain and the pain makes him sad, profoundly sad, and his sadness overwhelms him with memories and nostalgic images and tunes, bringing him back a vanished world, his childhood, and the fervently innocent prayers of that childhood. His pain increases and, for a moment, he feels trapped. No matter what he would do, what he would say, it would be a lie, a betrayal…the existing prayers are inadequate, or to use a modern cliché, irrelevant.

How is one to proclaim and extol divine justice, divine mercy in the century after Majdanek and Treblinka? אהבה רבה and Aushwitz? חמלה גדולה ויתרה [much pity and compassion] and Belsen?

How can one say these words without turning them into lies, into blasphemy?

How can we pronounce words that have been denied before our own eyes?

A thousand communities uprooted and עמך אהבת [You loved Your people] ?

One million Jewish children massacred, some of them thrown into the flames alive and אתה בחרתנו מכל העמים? [You chose us from amongst all the peoples] (Elie Wiesel)

No comments: