Friday, January 25, 2008

609. Voices

I've been meaning to write about Psalm 99, which we read during Kabbalat Shabbat every Friday evening. A few weeks ago at services I got stuck on this line:

Our Sovereign loves lawful order, maintaining justice
and equity among the peoples of Jacob.

and got angry. Our Sovereign does not always maintain justice and equity. I'm sure He or She tries, and I'd be happy to sing about that--but we don't. We say with certainty what is, in a word full of poverty, war, and hunger, absolutely not the case.

But I wasn't annoyed enough at King David to write about this until tonight at the contemplative service, where we considered Yitro, this week's parasha (aka the Ten Commandments) and focused on the Voice of God as described in Psalm 99:

They obeyed Your decrees
You spoke to them in a pillar of cloud.

It was a long and frustrating week, and at services I wasn't really in the mood to think about Voices. I just wanted silence. Tonight's leaders took a different approach than usual, sharing beautiful commentary and poetry rather than chanting a verse or two and then sitting quietly. I tried to pray in the way suggested, to listen for that Voice, feel Revelation in my bones--but they never changed from words into meaning. I was unfortunately reminded of other synagogues in past lives where "thee" and "thou" translations in the siddur came across as a language more foreign than Hebrew. (The version of Psalm 99 that I linked to at the beginning of this post is a good example.) Tonight I needed the God of personal victories, of a ray of light on the sidewalk, one bird singing at 5AM.

During the Amidah I imagined myself in the middle of a mold, and the putty that encased me was God. I was like a baby safe and wrapped in swaddling clothes, but more so--I was defined by God's material, and my contours also defined God. Perhaps the part of Our Sovereign that hasn't succeeded in maintaining justice and equity is the aspect that mirrors me in this way--maybe if I did my part, God will succeed, as well.


Rav Aaron Leibowitz said...

I am an orthodox Rabbi and found myself challenged by the beginning of this post. But with the last paragraph you floored me. What an awesome and powerful way to re frame your anger. I am new to following your blog, but if this is the depth it runs at, I suspect I will be around for a while. Thank you.

alto artist said...


Thank you so much for visiting and commenting!--I am overwhelmed by your words.