Elsewhere July 25, 2007
Iyov, has been posting on Lamentations, here, here and here. Besides the extensive background discussion and art, I noticed an interesting variant in the NJPS translation, the final lines are a reprise of the second last verse. Iyov links to the Velveteen Rabbi, where Rachel Barenblat writes,
- For me, the most valuable thing about reading Eicha is how our tradition handles the end of the text. The last line is dark and pretty miserable, so what do we do? After we read the end, we return and repeat the penultimate line, in order to find hope. Return us to You, God, and we shall return; renew our days as of old. That's the final message we take away, the verse that rings in our ears.
This is a text of trauma, and the end of the megillah is only the very beginning of healing the religion from the loss it describes. Rupture leaves an indelible mark, which forces over time a kind of renewal. Poetry is one of the ways that humanity has always dealt with catastrophe; by reading and studying this poem, today and tomorrow, we place ourselves in the shoes of the Israelites who lost the city -- the Temple -- the central point of connection with God. We feel that pain, and we mourn.
For me, that process is incomplete unless it also impels us to ask: who mourns today from this kind of loss? Who weeps now, imagining the very roads of home in mourning, desecrated and invaded, old friends and strangers alike bartering their treasures for food, children dead or enslaved? How can we obligate ourselves to really recognize the breadth and depth of suffering, in the many war-torn and damaged places of our world, and what can we do toward alleviating the suffering and healing the grief? How are we culpable, and how can we make teshuvah and begin the work of renewal and repair?
I have written a couple of short and inconsequential stories about being at Regent this month, for light entertainment.