Saturday, October 6, 2018

Tears in a bottle

D'var Torah of sorts for a new week, a new (and not improved) "situation."

Peter K. Perry (my friend the minister) posted a fitting bit of Tanach tonight on Facebook.

Psalms 58.9: "My wanderings you have counted (סָפַרְתָּה). You have collected my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book (בְּסִפְרָתֶךָ)?"

First of all, I don't believe in a personal God, so the idea of speaking directly to a divinity is not going to work for me. And yet I find this passage particularly moving. For me, the divine is that which is loving and kind and, in sum, good. The "trace" that Levinas sees, perhaps. I do not believe in a guy on a mountaintop counting my wanderings and collecting my tears (or my time) in a bottle and writing everything down, hopefully in the Book of Life. And yet, our wanderings through life are meaningful because we are responsible for each other ("ethics before ontology," Levinas wrote). As I reflect back on the tears that resulted from those wanderings, the tears of sorrow and of joy, I must tell about them (tell and count have the same root: סַפֵּר), that is, admit to myself, weighing how I acted with kindness or fell short, how I acted to increase peace in the world or did not, how I acted to increase justice in the world, or did not. And yet, I am not alone in this. Collectively, our actions of kindness and cruelty, peace and violence, justice and injustice are the book (סַפֵּר) of our community, in other words, the history we make. We have taken a wrong turn as a community. Our tears are bitter. May we act to return to the good.