Right in the middle of Pslam 16 is my Prayer of gratitude Havalim naflu lee b’naimim–my lines have fallen in pleasant places. The joy of such a realization is always accompanied by surprise.
We are a people of paradox and abundant superstition. Only in shul do we allow ourselves to speak and hear about good fortune, to testify we’re surrounded by beauty, that we are happy with our place in the universe and that even in sickness, life is a joy to us. Outside, in the dangerous world, we can’t be that openly happy. Do we hear the Jewish voice in us saying: “Shah!” Somebody may be listening. “Kiniainihurrah!” whish is Kayin ha ra–as to the evil eye. Didn’t it happen to Job, that in the midst of great good fortune, of being alive, free, rich, endowed with health and children, that he was standing on the lip of tragedy. So do we, awaiting the slap that will dump us over the edge.
Our paradoxes surround us. The Talmund says” May the name of Amalek be blotted out!” Amalek is our traditional enemy, and for the Talmud, the father of every enemy since form Haman to Hitler–may their names be blotted out. Who remembers Amalek? We do. I hope that a thousand years from now, when there are still Jews and Hitler and Stalin–may their names be blotted out, are the paper-thin memories of dusty archives–we’ll remember who and what.
Paradox–Great people among us say that since the holocaust, because of the holocaust, Jews can no longer believe in a personal God. I read that myself. Who knew? Here I’ve been, happily praying for all these years and going to services to show my gratitude to a creator who isn’t and doesn’t. Where do I send my gratitude and my yearning then? I’ve been praising a creator who, I believe created once and who creates constantly and who moves the universe and every atom in the continuity of that creation. I believe that to study that creation is science and to study that beauty is art. But that’s—Oh, my God—that’s INTELLIGENT DESIGN! Do you hear enraged villagers carrying torches coming after me and most of them are Jews, yelling “You can’t believe that!” Oops. They get me. They surround me.
What about the holocaust, they demand of me. Do I sense a note of triumph, a “Gotcha” because I’m supposed to give an answer and they knew I can’t? Or that the answer I give will never satisfy them, another paradox?
Among the hair-raising imprecations of the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy, which are so harrowing that the orthodox custom is to read them gunshot quick, is that those who do not obey the commandments will get hemorrhoids. The word is T’chorim.
In the ﬁrst book of Samuel, chapter 6, we read that golden hemorrhoids were to be offered as a guilt offering for a desecration of the ark. Where do all those hemorrhoids come from?
I think they come from our sitting on all our paradoxes.