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.
This evening I was contemplating the frantic modern aphorism YOLO – you only live once – in juxtaposition with today’s psalm (Psalm 90) which says, “So teach the number of our days, so that we shall acquire a heart of wisdom.”
The verse that I found most striking from this psalm, however, is this one: “Cause us to rejoice according to the days that You afflicted us, the years that we saw evil.”
Rashi’s commentary offers: “Cause us to rejoice in the days of our Messiah according to the number of days that You afflicted us in the exiles and according to the number of years that we experienced evil.”
Or, in other words: Redeem whatever time we spent not truly living. As many days as were sorrowful, give us glorious ones.
How natural is it to pray: As many days as we lived during the pandemic, give us in health and freedom and adventure.
Sometimes we don’t only live once. Sometimes we live affliction, then rejoicing. Sometimes we live exile, then return. Sometimes we live desolation, then hope.
Sometimes everything that wasn’t truly living can be somewhat redeemed, even in this life.
And when that happens, it’s like living (at least) twice.
“So teach us to number our days
that we may gain a wise heart.”
– Psalm 90:12
I remember seeing the news of Palm Sunday church bombings in Egypt on my phone while I was in Poland.
I had not been to Egypt before but of course the photos gripped me.
That was a year that the Western and Orthodox calendars synced up and so Christians worldwide were commemorating on the same day Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem before his Passion.
That suicide bombers charged into two Alexandria churches on this date and in this way indicates that their intent was to wreak not only destruction but desecration.
What was the impact of looking at the those photos on my phone in a small Polish church?
“When anxiety was great within me,
your consolation brought me joy.”
– Psalm 94:19
Today Christians celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord commemorating when Jesus was brought to the temple by Mary and Joseph.
About this feast, Pope Francis says: