Saturday, September 03, 2005

163. See

We mourned at services last night. There was no dancing, although we sang and the rabbis drummed as if their souls were being freed through their hands. They read from Psalm 69:

Deliver me, God, for the waters have reached my soul.
I am sunk in muddy depths without foothold;
I have come into deep waters and a whirlpool has swept me away.
I am weary with crying, my throat is parched,
my eyes grow dim as I wait for my God.
More than the number of hairs on my head are those who hate me without cause;
mighty are those who want to cut me off...

Rescue me from the mire and let me not sink;
let me be rescued from my enemies and from the depths of the water,
nor let the deep swallow me;
and let not the pit close its mouth on me.
Answer me, Adonai, for your kindness is good;
according to the abundance of your mercy turn to me.
And hide not your face from your servant,
for I am in distress,
speedily answer me.

This week's parasha is R'eih: "See." See, this day I set before you blessing and curse. Many prayers and parshiot, said the rabbi, begin with the command to "speak" or "hear" ("Shema, Yisrael..."). But now we're told to look. We can't turn away. With an immediacy unique to our generation, we witnessed images of horror and tragedy this past week that resulted, in great measure, from our refusal to see--that wetlands and barrier islands were being destroyed; that the levees of New Orleans would surely fail in a major hurricane.

Psalm 69 is an entreaty to God. But God, said the rabbi, offers a psalm to us as well, a plea to look at at the faces of those in pain. If we choose to see, perhaps blessing rather than curse will be our lot.

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