Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Battle of Lamentations

by Paula R. Stern
Tammuz 29, 5769, 21 July 09

(Not everyone should or could address this topic but Paula Stern is the exception.)

Every society needs those who see what is wrong and fight to make them right. No society is perfect, no country without flaws. But when a community rises to fight tyranny and injustice, the difference between being effective and being street hoodlums rests in the cause that stirs them.

How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! How is she become as a widow! She that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces. (Eicha/Lamentations)

I drove through my beautiful city of Jerusalem on my way to work. No, it isn't really my city, but I love it so much that sometimes the "my" just slips in. The Bar-Ilan intersection looks like a war zone. I've never been to war, so perhaps it is an unfair description. Perhaps it is enough to say that what I saw is far from the way it appears on normal mornings.

Jerusalem remembereth in the days of her affliction and of her anguish all her treasures that she had from the days of old. (Eicha/Lamentations)

Signs of numerous fires are seen on the road and on the sides; garbage is strewn all around; traffic lights are smashed, some dangling from their sockets; the light at the junction of Golda Meir and Bar-Ilan does not work at all; cars enter haphazardly, driving into and around the garbage.

Jerusalem hath grievously sinned, therefore she is become as one unclean; all that honored her despise her, because they have seen her nakedness; she herself also sigheth, and turneth backward. Her filthiness was in her skirts, she was not mindful of her end; therefore is she come down wonderfully, she hath no comforter. (Eicha/Lamentations)

Most of those who caused this damage have never been to war either. Unlike my sons, they won't defend this land, won't serve in our army against those who would destroy us.

Many of those who protest do not "recognize" the State - but for the medical services they use, the city buses that transport them to and from their destinations. They pay whatever taxes they must, avoiding many that can be manipulated. The city takes their garbage away, provides lights in the streets they walk at night, and the country pays towards their children's education.

In a few days, we will sit and mourn for the destruction of our Holy Temple over 2,000 years ago. We will sit on the floors in the synagogues and read Lamentations (Eicha) - of a time when we abandoned God's teachings and, in effect, God showed us what it would be like if He ever abandoned us.

For these things I weep; mine eye, mine eye runneth down with water; They sit upon the ground, and keep silence, the elders of the daughter of Zion; they have cast up dust upon their heads, they have girded themselves with sackcloth. (Eicha/Lamentations)

Many of these people - who are my people despite their failure to see the connection - will not lift their hands against our enemies, preferring to find legal loopholes that suggest their prayers are more righteous than those of my sons, that their opening a Gemara is of more value than my sons doing the same.

All this I struggle with as an Orthodox Jew, as a mother who has sent a son to war and is about to have another join the army. I love them no less than those other mothers love their sons, who do not serve. I watch as my sons stop their lives, pick up guns and stand on our borders; and I fight within myself to understand why these mothers find it acceptable that my son should serve while theirs do not.
(For full article)

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