Avoiding Easy Answers

The other day I had my first class called “Post-Holocaust Jewish Theologies and Selected Christian Responses.”

Among the readings with which we began the course, we were given this single page containing the following epitaph:

From the Psalms I learned to pray: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19)

From Irving Greenberg I have learned to add:

“May they be credible in the presence of the burning children.”

The rabbi teaching our class also introduced us to some pages of Zalmen Gradowski who gave an eyewitness account of the death camps. Gradowski perished in October 1944 and his manuscripts were found after the war, hidden underground near the crematoria at Auschwitz.

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An Endearing Place to Suffer

Life is sure to involve some degree of hardship, inconvenience, and suffering. Have you thought about where you might most like to endure it?

Amos Oz ends his little gem of a book Dear Zealots: Letters from a Divided Land with this:

Now comes a little confession: I love Israel even when I cannot stand it. If I have to fall over in the street one day, I would like it to happen on a street in Israel. Not in London, not in Paris, not in Berlin or New York. Here people will come over immediately and pick me up. (Granted, once I’m back on my feet, there will probably be quite a few who will be happy to see me fall down again.) […] I like being a citizen of a country where there are eight and a half million prime ministers, eight and a half million prophets, eight and a half million messiahs. Each of us has our own personal formula for redemption, or at least for a solution. Everyone shouts and few listen. It’s never boring here. It is vexing, galling, disappointing, sometimes frustrating and infuriating, but almost always fascinating and exciting. What I have seen here in my lifetime is far less, yet also far more, than what my parents and their parents ever dreamed of.

Now consider extending the hypothetical from “If I have to fall over in the street one day, …” to any number of hypotheticals.

We often think about where we would most like to vacation, relax, and explore, but we seldom think about where we would most like to suffer adversity, experience hardship, or conquer our circumstances.

By thinking about what might constitute an endearing place to suffer, we’ll be sure to have our own little confessions about what and who we’ve discovered that makes our life always fascinating and exciting.