Thursday, June 21, 2007

Blazing Words

"You say I took the Name in vain
I don't even know the Name
but if I did
well really, what's it to ya?
There's a blaze of light in every word
it doesn't matter which you heard
the holy or the broken hallelujah"
-"Hallelujah," Leonard Cohen

I asked the women for guidance and they told me, "Rejoice in G-d for He is good."
"But what about the rest of Him?" I asked.
And they could not hear me; they were dancing and singing into the light.

And I saw His goodness, but I could not rejoice. Because, see, the flip side of good is evil, and since nothing can exist without its flip-side since nothing can be complete without its opposite, so too His goodness walks hand in hand with His evil. This has always been true; that to be Infinite, to be Complete means to include everything which has always been and always will be even a theoretical possibility; and so the existence of evil is not only unavoidable and unchangable but very very neccessary. But still I cannot rejoice because I therefore cannot see joy without pain, I cannot see hope without despair, or idealism without being hopelessly cynical. I cannot focus on that which praises only His good, because I know that to focus only on the good is missing half of the truth.

".... it doesn't matter which you heard, the holy or the broken hallelujah."

Because they are two essentially fused sides of a single expression - an expression of complete and hopeless submission to His will, in whatever form it may take. They are one and the same; the broken blazes just as brightly, and the joyful is just as bloody. I sit caught between the jubilation and the dancing, which is what I used to be, and the broken and the bloody, which I never quite became. I'm somewhere in a no-man's land between the battleground littered with corpses and the promise of paradise and eternal bliss. I cannot believe the promise and I have no place on the battle ground; yet far from being ignorant of either, I have a clear view of both. I don't know how to meld them into something sane and holy. I don't know how to fuse them. Fusing them is the point, I know, but I'm simply incapable. And once you fuse that which is ugly with that which is beautiful, what happens then? Do they mesh together and become something lumpy and brown, like when you smoosh all the different colored Play-Dos into one giant ball? Does ugliness and beauty become indistinguishable and neutral, finally in some sort of peace and equality with each other? Or does beauty take on pieces of ugliness and ugliness take on pieces of beauty, in some sort of grisly bartering agreement, so that everything is a hodgepodge, the beauty and ugliness distinctive and seperate yet living side by side ? Where do we go from there? How are we supposed to make some sort of organzied order in the world without the polarized distinctions of light and dark?

I've been having trouble praying lately.

I used to have it down pretty pat. I've memorized the things that are particularly important that I ask for when I pray; peace, health, passing my finals. But I've been realizing something about it.

For the longest time I didn't actually know that you're not supposed to make requests of G-d on Shabbat. When I first heard it, I suddenly realized how my concentration during shmoneh esray was almost entirely requests, and very little was thanks and praise. So the bits that were thanks and praise stayed in but I didn't know what else to do with my concentration. For a while I tried to just focus on the meaning of the words, but it's almost never enough to hold my attention and, sof davar, it basically takes me a lot shorter to daven on Shabbat than on any other day of the week.

I used to be able to focus just on the thanks and the praise, on the enormity of His beauty and goodness, once upon a time. But those words sound so empty to me on their own now. And the Kaddish has been haunting me endlessly, reminding me of the ultimate futilityand helplessness that is true submission to G-d. I think I need to find a new way to communicate, because I'm just not getting through like this.

This is a fantastic version of Leonard Cohen's song, although it does not include the above-quoted lyrics. Kol Isha warning; this woman's amazing.

(Yay! My first truly successful link!! I owe it all to halfnutcase.)


Blogger Tobie said...

When we feel the pain, we don't hesitate to scream, to express the pain, and the fact that we know that there is beauty and joy does not stop us from screaming. And when we see the beauty, why should we not dance? As someone once said, Nachem (the prayer for Tisha B'Av) is always in the siddur, but we don't say it every day. The same is true of Hallel.

The joy is no less true than the pain, and it may be more useful, morally, to express. It may be hard to do so, but it's valid and right.

7:49 AM  
Anonymous Chaya said...


Hey Miri, amu"sh

I just discovered your blog (through your post on Chana's). I really identify with this post. I find that my Amida on Shabbos lacks the same quality that my weekday Shmona Esrai has due to the lack of requests.
I'm really glad I found your blog. Hope to see you soon in Israel.


5:39 PM  
Blogger Miri said...

Hi Chaya, it's always nice to hear from a new voice; especially since a lot of the old ones seem to have vanished. I'm glad you enjoyed my blog, and I hope to see you in Israel soon.

3:48 AM  
Blogger Nemo said...

We haven't vanished, we're lying in wait.

10:01 PM  
Blogger Miri said...

Thanks Nemo; that's not at all creepy. Hope you enjoyed your vacation. :)

4:45 AM  
Blogger Nemo said...

I'm still on vacation. Or is it called unemployment?

I need a job.

11:00 PM  

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