Thursday, January 10, 2019

Random Musing Before Shabbat–Bo 5779–Adayin Ani Keretz

Still I am a Gadfly. Revisiting a musing from 2004, with new insights into myself and the topics at hand.

In the Haftarah for parashat Bo, which is from Jeremiah 46:13-28, we read of Egypt's punishment for her sins. Jeremiah was predicting Egypt's destruction by Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon. This Haftarah is an interesting parallel to the story of the final plagues that we read in Bo. Jeremiah even compares Egypt's coming invaders to locusts (46:23.)

I love this Haftarah, this passage from Jeremiah a great deal, because of one simple word that appears in 46:20.

עֶגְלָ֥ה יְפֵֽה־פִיָּ֖ה מִצְרָ֑יִם קֶ֥רֶץ מִצָּפ֖וֹן בָּ֥א בָֽא׃

     Egypt is a handsome heifer—
       A gadfly from the north is coming, coming!
(JPS)

That word is keretz.

The word itself is of somewhat ambiguous derivation, and most often thought to be a cognate of karatz, from the root quf-resh-tzadee, קרץ, meaning to nip or pinch. Thus keretz is thought to mean a nipper or biter, i.e. an insect that nips, bites or stings. Of course the reason I like this word so much is because it is translated by the JPS committee as "gadfly."

I have often thought of myself as a gadfly, and one who actively relishes that role. In my original research for this musing back in 2004, I discovered to my chagrin that perhaps "gadfly" is not exactly the right description for what it is I often do. This dictionary definition, courtesy of www.merriam-webtser.com says:

1 : any of various flies (as a horsefly, botfly, or warble fly) that bite or annoy livestock
2 : a person who stimulates or annoys especially by persistent criticism

Well, that second definition brought me up a little short (no pun intended for those who know me personally.) I do intend to be a person who stimulates, but I certainly don't intend to be one who constantly criticizes to the point of annoyance.

Nonetheless, how I see myself and how others perceive me can sometimes be at odds. I have been told many times over the years that some people find my gadfly nature as obnoxious, offensive, or rude. I used to simply reply “that isn’t my intention” as if that were adequate. I have learned, over the years, to temper both my reaction and my proclivity to be the gadfly. Communication does require that oft overlooked third component of repeating the other party’s response to insure that you understood it. Of course, this can lead into a recursive loop-even more so in a society where most people are listening not to understand, but to be able to respond.

So yes, I’ll take it as a given that at times my gadfly style of engagement can be off-putting, even offensive to some. Since I so easily fall into the pattern of writing/speaking in the manner of a gadfly, I have tried consciously, in recent years, to refrain from putting in my oar too often, and when I do, to not always offer ,my thoughts in the form of a critique or challenge.

Nevertheless, I have a dilemma. Isn’t part of the point of being a gadfly to be persistent to the point of annoyance? To say the things that people don’t want to hear? To speak truth to power (well maybe that’s being a bit too lofty-but then again, maybe not?) Sometimes, gadfly types have to accept the risk of being unpopular. How many times have I referred to the Elie Wiesel story:

One day a Tzadik came to Sodom; He knew what Sodom was, so he came to save it from sin, from destruction. He preached to the people. "Please do not be murderers, do not be thieves. Do not be silent and do not be indifferent." He went on preaching day after day, maybe even picketing. But no one listened. He was not discouraged. He went on preaching for years. Finally someone asked him, "Rabbi, why do you do that? Don't you see it is no use?" He said, "I know it is of no use, but I must. And I will tell you why: in the beginning I thought I had to protest and to shout in order to change them. I have given up this hope. Now I know I must picket and scream and shout so that they should not change me.

I can see/hear the eye rolls now. Am I comparing myself to a biblical prophet? A great tzadik? Of course not. If Wiesel tried to teach us anything, it was about the inhumanity of man, and how we have to fight it. Of our responsibility to not be bystanders. More eye rolls, right? Now I’m drawing a moral equivalence between my being a gadfly and the ethical lessons of the Shoah? No. Many, if not most of the things upon which I comment are quotidian, and do not rise to the level of those actions and behaviors of humanity which compelled the great prophets and tzadikim speak out.

I just want people to think about things, to see and consider viewpoints other than their own, and I genuinely want to help people be better than they already are in everything that they do. I apologize to those who find my methodology off-putting. Aware that some people do, I work to mitigate my tendencies, but I can’t (and won’t) completely eliminate them, and actually do believe they can, at times, serve some greater good. Along with my piano playing, teaching, and other skills I contribute, my gadfly nature is offered in the same spirit in which I offer all those other things with which I have been gifted. Ones gifts, however gladly and freely offered, are not always welcome or accepted. That’s a price and a reality with which I can live. (Damn, just broke my promise to be less of a grammar prescriptivist.)

So let’s turn this back to Torah, and our parasha. From Pharaoh's point of view, even with G”d's hardening of the heart, Moses and Aaron were a bit like gadflies. Persistent little devils. (Or was G”d really the annoying one in this scenario? Would the Hebrew G”d be gadfly-like to Pharaoh if he knew he was being deliberately manipulated so that he and his people would suffer more show that G”d could show off...but that's a musing for another time-continued from last week's musing, perhaps.)

And, although we don't really have records to prove it, it's quite possible that Jeremiah and other prophets were thought of like gadflies. They were persistent, they were critical, and most likely, at times, annoying.

Is there another way to describe or define a gadfly? Must it be in negative terms like “annoying?”

To my rescue in 2004 came traditional American sloppiness with the English language. Merriam-Webster notwithstanding, a search of the web and of current literature reveals that gadfly has taken on a broader meaning.

Dictionary.com has:

1. A persistent irritating critic; a nuisance.
2. One that acts as a provocative stimulus; a goad.
3. Any of various flies, especially of the family Tabanidae, that bite or annoy livestock and other animals

That somewhat morphed meaning number two is pretty much how I like to see myself. I like to take controversial positions to spark discussion, or to insure that different sides of an issue get heard and considered. It’s as if I am speaking/writing accompanied by a wink or raised eyebrow or other gesture that attempts to communicate that “I might not really believe this, but this ought to spark some discussion.”

In point of fact, there are three biblical citations for this root being used to mean to wink:

1. קָרַץ עַיִן Ps 3519 Pr 1010 and קָרַץ בְּעֵינָיו Pr 613 to screw up one’s eyes, blink (as an expression of derision or mockery).

Koehler, L., Baumgartner, W., Richardson, M. E. J., & Stamm, J. J. (1994–2000). The Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon of the Old Testament (electronic ed., p. 1148). Leiden: E.J. Brill.

Now, that “as an expression of derision or mockery” ought to give me pause, and may help explain why people often react as they do to my gadfly writings or words. I certainly don’t intend to be derisive or mocking, however I can see how others might interpret me that way. It’s hard sometimes in writing and in electronic media to convey that body language (though emojis have come to fill as significant role in doing so, and I make liberal use of them in that fashion. Yet emojis, too, might be subject to different interpretations. Is always a sign of positive intent? Is always a sign of negative intent? Can an be loving?

When we use these shortcuts in place of body language, when we write in the style of a gadfly, as I do, we must accept the risk that we could be potentially hurtful to someone, even if unintentional. This was brought sharply into focus for me the other day when a friend posted a meme of Facebook seeming to wax nostalgic at parents scolding their crying child with “if you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to stop crying about.” I responded with the comment that I wasn’t sure this was something for which we ought to be nostalgic. Of course I assumed the OP thought of this nostalgically, but they too later commented it brought them up short and made them think.

Also some days ago, I posted about being very offended by a very heightist meme depicting DJT’s head on the body of a little boy and referring to him as a “little man.” I found, and still find the linking of height and maturity in this manner as being yet another form of heightist micro-aggression. Because I’m of extreme short-stature with otherwise normal body dimensions compared to the typical U.S. male (I’m 4’-9” tall) I’m sensitive about this. I think people can see my point, and indeed most of the comments on my post were supportive and understanding. I’m pleased it didn’t attract negative comments and people telling me to stop being a snowflake, though I imagine with wider distribution or the simply luck of exposure, it could have happened.

So that’s an example of when my being a bit of a gadfly seemed to be understood. (It’s gadfly in nature because it’s not something that people usually think about, and because it challenged a meme which mocked someone that I and most of my online friends would normally want to see mocked-although even realizing that ought to give me a little pause, no?)

I do have one online nemesis (but also a friend) who regularly takes me to task for mostly saying and sharing negative opinions of things online, and questioning why. I accept the critique even though I may disagree with it, and sometimes I do argue back. My nemesis’ critique of me may be meant sincerely just as written, but it could also be a bit of the gadfly getting gadflied by another.

I guess I sometimes look at it this way: I have a limited amount of time in my life. If I choose to use that time to post a critique or review of something, it is because I feel the object being critiqued, or those involved in its creation to be worthy of my time to critique it. To critique from a place of disappointment for the efforts of the creators can be a loving act.

In looking over the history of my own work, I perceive that I have often posted praise and positive comments. Many of my critiques are part and parcel of a review or comment that also includes praise. Nevertheless, I recognize my own proclivity to be critical. I work to mitigate it. Yet sometimes it takes over, and I am sometimes not self-aware enough to realize it. It is and always will be a constant struggle for me. Yet I do believe my gadfly nature can be and sometimes is a force for good in the universe.

I have a younger friend, someone with his own share of challenges in life. Decades ago, I played gadfly to his youthful enthusiasm with a little negative psychology and suggesting he wasn’t ready to do something. Of course he rose to the occasion, as I had intended he would. He has come to recognize this, and continues to grow and thrive.

When I first wrote on this topic back in 2004, I neglected to do as much research as I should. As you have read, it can have a broader meaning in some places in the Tanakh as a wink or screwing up of the eyes. I learned that in modern Israeli Hebrew, this root is used to mean “to wink.” לִקְרוֹץ

Now, if that doesn’t fit how I really see myself acting the gadfly, nothing does. There’s a wink accompanying my writing or my speaking at times when I am playing the gadfly.

In 2004, I enumerated these thoughts relative to the parasha and other parts of Torah relative to how I can act like a gadfly.

Like asking if it was really necessary for all the Egyptian first-born sons to die? Laying it on a little thick, aren't you, G”d?

Like asking if verse 12:11 is the first commandment to eat fast-food?

Like asking why strangers in the community will be cut off just as an Israelite would be for eating food with leavening in it during the proscribed time for the Festival in 12:19, yet in 12:43 strangers are prohibited from eating the Passover offering.

Well, you get the idea. There's plenty enough fodder in parashat Bo and all the rest of Tanakh. In daily life. In the world. Help yourself. Go and be a keretz yourself. The world needs more of them.

Shabbat Shalom,

Adrian
©2019 (portions ©2004) by Adrian A. Durlester   

Other musings on this parasha:

Bo 5778 - Sub-contracting Death
Bo 5777 - Good Loser (Revised 5763)
Bo 5776 - Four Strikes and You're...Well...(a fractured midrashic fairy tale)
Bo 5775 - Teach Your Children Well (Redux 5762)
Bo 5774 - Spellcheck On My hand
Bo 5773 - Dear G"d...Love, Pharaoh
Bo 5772 - Lifting the Cover of Darkness
Bo 5771 - Keretz MiTzafon-Again! (not the same as 5769)
Bo 5769-Keretz MiTzafon
Bo 5768 - Good Loser (Redux 5763)
Bo 5767-Teach Your Children Well (Redux 5762)
Bo 5766 - Random Disjunctions and Convergences (Redux 5760)
Bo 5765-Four Strikes and You're...Well...
Bo 5764-Keretz Ani
Bo 5763 -Good Loser
Bo 5761-Cover of Darkness
Bo 5762-Teach Your Children Well

Friday, January 4, 2019

Random Musing Before Shabbat–Va’era 5779–Yet Again, Crushed Spirits

[2019]

In 2000, I wrote a musing entitled “Crushed Spirits.” I revisited it again in 2007 during the Dubya years. In these Trumpian times it certainly feels like just the right time to visit it again.

[2007]

This musing is dedicated to the memory of Art Buchwald, z"l.
And in that spirit, I commend to you my Monty-Pythonesque musing from last year, "
Why Tomorrow?" [2019 note: I have linked to a more recent version of that musing from 2016]

Seven years ago (in 2000,) I wrote a musing for this parasha called "Miqotzer Ruach - Crushed Spirits." At the time, it provided solace for my own crushed spirits, in a world gone far astray. I began: "That's just the way it is; we can't change it!" I can't think of a more depressing sentence in the English language. When spirits are crushed, when hopes are dashed, how does one live each day?"

I face the same question still today, and the fuel and sustenance I provided myself through that musing is wearing thin. So I thought I would take another look, see if I can reinforce my sagging spirits and conquer my rising cynicism.

[2019]  How much more so is this true today. While the restoration of Democratic control to the House of Representatives may mark the beginning of a more hopeful time, these past two years have certainly resulted in more crushed spirits for me.

[2000]

"Our Holy Torah tells us that when Moshe told B'nei Yisrael that G"d would redeem them, they "would not listen to Moses, their spirits crushed by cruel bondage." (Ex. 6:9 JTS) (lo sham-u el Moshe miqotzer ruach u-mei'avodah kasha)

וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר מֹשֶׁ֛ה כֵּ֖ן אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְלֹ֤א שָֽׁמְעוּ֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה מִקֹּ֣צֶר ר֔וּחַ וּמֵעֲבֹדָ֖ה קָשָֽׁה׃.

We live in an era of receding boundaries. Our willingness to stand up for what is right has been hammered into submission through decades of political correctness and tolerance and over-saturation from noise and images, and commercially-induced cynicism. Each and every day our tolerance of bad behavior, poor service, unfair practices, violence, oppression, hate, substandard work and products, etc. increases, dulling our ability, willingness and even interest in working to change what we perceive as immutable.

I, too, despair of the world situation. I, too, have a "crushed spirit" and a cynical attitude. For many, this translates into abandonment of religion, as proof that G"d is powerless to stop the madness. For me, at one time, the effect was exactly the opposite. It had drawn me deeper into Judaism, study, and religious practice."

[2007]

Once again, I am in despair of the world situation. Our president is practicing escalatio on the Iraqis (it's a Tom Lehrer quote.) I am hoping that by reviewing my own words from 2000, I can help counter the renewed effects of a world gone mad. Then again, that was a pre 9/11 world. A pre war in Afghanistan and Iraq world. A pre Darfur world. A pre nuclear North Korea world. Still, perhaps I can find some hope.

[2019]

As a friend of mine is fond of remarking, every time she hits a new bottom, that she falls through to find yet a lower bottom. That is what it feels like to me here in January 2019. It goes from bad to worse day by day. Down is up. Black is white. Fiction is fact. Lie is truth. Finding hope becomes increasingly harder. Our country has been hijacked, and its basic values and beliefs are challenged, derided, mocked, and ignored on a daily basis. Add in what Judaism teaches us (or even what Christianity teaches Christians) and it only gets worse. How could we let this happen? I know there are those who believe that invoking a comparison to the rise of Nazi power demeans the utter evil that it was, but what is happening now could lead to a similar evil. Already the cracks are showing, the edges are fraying. The muzzling and derision of a free press. The incitement of hatred against “the other.” The lies told with impunity. It not only can happen here, it is happening. We must stay ever vigilant to insure “never again” (and not just for the Jews, but for everyone.)

Like the Israelites enslaved in Egypt, I am feeling a shortness of spirit that prevents me from hearing the positive messages and calls to action of the prophets among us. What will it take to help me remove the metaphorical cotton from my ears so that I can hear again?

[2000] I wrote:

"Hope. Hope is what religion is all about. A place for hope. A space for hope. I recall a final paper I was required to write for a theology class. As I worked with a TA to help me hone my thoughts, we discussed what I perceived to be the ultimate purpose of theology. In the end, we came to see that, for me, theology is ultimately about providing a place for hope.

Reading how the B'nei Yisrael fail to hear to G"d's promise through Moshe, one sees how hope can easily be strangled. So despairing were the people that they could not even hear Moshe's words. When we close our ears to the din around us, we also close it to that "still small voice" and to the chance of hearing Elijah's voice make that long-awaited announcement. When we close our eyes to the evil that perpetuates in our society, we also close them to visions of a repaired world. Worse yet is when we go about with our eyes open, ignoring what we see, believing we cannot change it, or that it will never change. When we fold our arms tight and turn our backs to all the madness, immorality and lack of righteousness in despair and frustration and hopelessness, we exclude ourselves from participating in the process of tikkun olam. "

[2007]

I think I'm right. To just sit here and brood over Dubya's war, about genocide in Darfur, about Israel electing a government more inclined to make peace and the Palestinians electing Hamas to lead them, about how Israel has become so like the U.S. that it blew the summer conflict with Hezbollah, and so on and so forth does little except make me more sullen and depressed. There must be a way out of all this mess.

[2019]

There may be a way out, but it’s a long and winding road. The difficulties of 2007 seem to pale by comparison to how our current reality has been torn asunder. Things in Israel are even worse. Its government is not only corrupt, it has become its own obstacle to peace. Israel’s ruling leadership has become its own worst enemy. Here in this country we pursue a policy – no, strike that – it’s not a policy. We pursue the random gut reactions of a petulant child with the powers of the presidency of the most powerful nation on the planet. Maybe hope is on the horizon. Maybe the Mueller report will give our representatives in Congress the ammunition they need to put a stop to this ongoing coup d’etat.

There is another aspect here – that of the false prophet. Far too many among us seemed to have fallen prey to the siren of this false prophet. No Moses or Aharon he. An ertswhile Korach, perhaps (although I have written before that Korach gets somewhat of an undeserved bad rap. Challenge to authority is not, per se, a bad thing, even if that authority is G”d. The downside is that G”d doesn’t seem to take well to authority challenges. Why, there are times in the Torah that even G”d’s actions seem somewhat-dare I say-Trumpian.  Playing Pharaoh like a yo-yo by hardening his heart feels an awfully lot like the political yo-yo arts practiced by the flipper-in-chief. Ouch.)

[2000] I wrote:

"For those who have given up on G"d, there is naught that I can offer to them.

But for those who still have a place in their theology for hope, look at the Exodus story. Discouraged by decades of slavery and oppression, the B'nei Yisrael were deaf to Moshe's words and G"d's promises. G"d could just as easily have said, "OK, fine. Not interested? I'll just pick some other people and go save them instead." But G"d did not do that. G"d had made a promise to us. And even though we were (and still are) quite remiss in holding up our end of the covenant, G"d still redeemed us. G"d did just as G"d said and brought us out of Egypt with an outstretched arm and wonders. That is a message of hope to the discouraged.

Yes, it has been many thousands of years since G"d did anything like this for us, the covenanted people. History, and particularly that of the last half of the 20th century has seen plenty of opportunity for G"d to work wonders and free Israel from its oppression. Maybe we are looking for the wrong miracles?

We've been pretty destructive as a species-to ourselves, one another, and our planet, and in the midst of it all the children of Israel have suffered greatly. Still, humankind has not blown itself up. The evil that was Hitler was defeated. A new Israel arose and is finally on the verge of peace."

[2007]

Ah yes, that's me, Mr. Pollyanna. Mr. "Always look on the bright side of life." Mr. "Every cloud has a silver lining." He's always there, inside me, and manages to make appearances when I need him most. Yet I begin to weary of the platitudes. I do not know how much longer my inner Pollyanna will be able to sustain.

[2019] My inner Pollyanna is in very short supply these days. She rarely manages to peek out. So much so, that this is all I’m going to write here.

I would be remiss, however, if I did not take myself to task for saying in 2000 that I could not offer hope to those who have given up on G”d. G”d and religious faith can be a source of hope. G”d is not the sole source of hope in the universe.

Tangential to that notion is growing discomfort I have with those of religious faith who urge calm because all is in G”d’s hands. Yes, I understand that accepting such an idea can bring peace and hope for some. It doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t work for many. Thanks goodness for the rest on Tanakh, because the G”d described in Torah is not often the best place to look for hope.

Saying things are all in G”d’s hands is really a way for us to abdicate our own personal responsibility for what takes place in our world. John Pavolovitz says it best in this recent article: Christian, Stop Telling Me God is in Control

[2000] I wrote:

"Maybe the last 3500 years or so have been an extended version of more plagues being visited upon those who would challenge G"d. Each time, it appears, humanity's heart was hardened, and yet we refused to hear and obey G"d's command. What final plague will it take for humanity to finally acknowledge G"d and let G"d's people go to be what they were intended to be and live in the universe that G"d wants to build for us and with us."

[2007]

It was a nice idea at the time. Yet the plagues continue. And the source that had become the support beneath my hope, this thing we call Judaism, has started to fail me. Each and every day I wake up determined to work hard to insure the continuity of Judaism and the Jewish people, through education. And each and every day, that task becomes harder. I see the interest of students and adults alike waning. I see their commitment faltering, and the balance shifting ever more towards a life in which Judaism, the synagogue, religious school, etc. play little, if any, part. The in-reach that Arthur Herzberg (z"l) always championed may turn out to be the right way to go. Yet I am not yet willing to give up on stemming the tide of exodus, and trying to reverse it.

Yes, I do have hope. I spend lots of time on the internet and the web. I like to observe the latest trends and happenings. I read blogs, and I blog myself. All around the world, young Jews are finding news ways to be Jewish, new structures, new connections. Though many might hate to admit it, the age of the synagogue, and the big national Jewish organizations may be drawing to a close. What will replace it? Can it be replaced? What would a non-synagogue-centered Jewish religious school look like? How would it work?

Or are the anti-cynics right in saying that when today's generation grows older and has kids, they'll find it easier to fall back on the existing structures within Judaism like synagogue, JCC, and Federations, rather than to try and maintain this new form of Judaism that is evolving. And then I must ask myself the question whether I would despair more at the the failure of the new Judaism or the death of the old? It's a tough question. I make my living in the synagogue world-yet I think I am beginning to champion and espouse a post-synagogue/Federation/UJC Judaism, even though I may never be able to earn a living from it. Still, it is a ray of hope for a different, and possibly brighter, future.

[2019] I’ve grown since writing that. I more openly embrace a present that is change in process and a future that may be very different. I was prescient in suggesting that making a living in the synagogue world has become increasingly difficult. What I didn’t anticipate is how equally difficult it might be for someone of my age, even with my forward-looking worldview to earn a living in this developing new Judaism. Yet there is a flourishing of Judaism in new forms, new places. Synagogues are struggling to keep up, to remain relevant, to find a way to integrate this new Judaism – but they are discovering it may not want to be integrated by them. At least for now, the old and the new must exist side by side. Pieces of the new will find their way to the old, and perhaps pieces of the old will find their way into the new. Nevertheless, I cannot help but believe that what it eventually becomes will not be what either camp expects. Me, I’m going to ride the crest of the wave. There is as much danger in that as there is remaining on shore, but I’d rather be in motion. That feels more hopeful than standing on shore, waiting to get swamped by the tsunami.

That said, I think I was on to something back in 2000. So why, I ask again, does G”d continue to harden all of humanity’s hearts such that we are forced to endure one horror after another? Yes, G”d was trying to make a point with Pharaoh, but it was as much a publicity and marketing stunt as anything else. But at what cost? The midrash tells us that G”d chastised the angels for celebrating the drowning of Pharaoh’s army in the sea of reeds. We shouldn’t need a midrash to do that. G”d in Torah shouldn’t be a sadist. Time after time G”d seems to think that death and destruction are the best tools at G”d’s disposal. This is the lesson that G”d wants humanity to learn? No wonder we are such a violent, war-prone society. Don;t do us any more favors G”d. Stop hardening our hearts. You might actually discover we’ll learn the lesson faster that way. We’ll never know until You try.

[2000] I wrote:

"Hope. What a sweet word. Just like B'nei Yisrael in Egypt, we Jews have suffered from years of oppression. Yet, like them, we are still here. What we are not is "hear," just as they were. The hopeful thing is to believe, as I do, that even when we aren't listening, G"d is there, and G"d will keep the covenant. An even more hopeful (and enterprising) thing to do is to open our eyes, our eyes, our hands, our hearts and, working together with each other as partners with G"d, bring about tikkun olam. If we turn our crushed spirits into hopeful and determined ones, think how much more we might accomplish."

[2007]

In 2007, the ever more cynical me says "now, G"d, would be a good time to act, do something to reassure my faith. I do not have the patience of my ancestors." But G"d acts on G"d's timetable, not mine. (Yes, I accept that, but it still sucks.)

I'm listening G"d. It's getting harder and harder. I'll keep trying, I really will. Help me find and renew my hope. Help me overcome my crushed spirit. Help us all to overcome our crushed spirits.

[2019]

By the way, G”d, why DID it take You so long to hear and respond to the suffering of the Israelites in Egypt? You expect us to be listening all the time for your voice, but we cry our for a few centuries and You hear nothing (or chose to ignore what You heard.) OK, I;ve gottent hat off my chest.

I reminded myself this year of something I’ve always known but chose to overlook. “Crushed spirits” is probably not the best or most accurate translation of מִקֹּ֣צֶר ר֔וּחַ. The root קֹּ֣צֶר  more accurately means “short” so this phrase is really “shortness of spirit.” That could indicate a despondency, a lack, an impatience. In fact, I think it represents all that and even more. An inability to maintain? A running short of resolve, of patience? The Hebrews could not hear Moshe and Aharon’s words because their spirits were all these things: short, impatient, disillusioned, despondent, despairing, feed up, hopeless. Surely people found themselves asking “where the eff is G”d?” The apologists and whitewashers would offer the typically placating “ G”d’s time scale is not our time scale” Not buying that anymore. G”d’s time scale is how long it takes for us to realize that we have to do the work and not wait for G”d to do it. That’s not a new viewpoint for me.

[2007, with a little 2019 editing]

in 2007 I wrote: Yet if I'm honest with myself, I know that it's not up to G"d, it's up to us. We must work to turn our crushed, disillusioned, impatient spirits into hopeful ones, as our ancestors did. So, in the end, what I wrote in 2000 remains true:

The choice is ours.

Shabbat Shalom,

Adrian
©2019 (portions ©2000 and 2007) by Adrian A. Durlester

Other Musings on this parasha:

Va'era 5778 - Careful the Words You Boast
Va'era 5777 - Alternative Facts (Not What You Think - Or Is It?)
Va'era 5776 - Why Tomorrow (Revised 5757/62/66)
Va'era 5775 - Brighton Beach Last Stop! (Revised)
Va'era 5774 - Tomorrow, Again
Va'era 5773 - Let Our People Go/Rendezvousing With Rama
Va'era 5772 - Got It!
Va'era 5771/5765-Brighton Beach-Last Stop!
Va'era 5769 - Substitute
Va'era 5767-again, Crushed Spirits (Miqotzer Ruakh)
Va'era 5766-Why Tomorrow?
Va'era 5765-Brighton Beach-Last Stop!
Va'era 5764-Imperfect Perfection and Perfect Imperfection
Va'era 5763 - Pray for Me
Va'era 5761-Just Not Getting It
Va'era 5762-Early will I Seek You