Songs of Praise – A War Diary
Give ear to my words, Hashem, consider my meditation.
Listen to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to You I pray. In the morning, God, hear my voice; in the morning I arrange [my prayer] before You and I wait, expectantly.
For you are not a God who desires wickedness; with You, evil people do not dwell.
The confused (the arrogant?] cannot stand before Your eyes. You hate all evildoers. You destroy the speakers of lies. Men of blood and deception, You detest…
Not a word from their mouth is sincere; their heart is filled with malice.
Their throat is an open grave; though their tongues are smooth.
Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall.
Cast them out for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you…”
David, in psalm after psalm, song after song, you composed your words to be part of a public presentation, so you addressed them to the musical director of the Temple. So that ultimately your distress would be carefully curated, your pain would become performative.
Don’t misunderstand me. I am grateful when certain individuals convert their private anguish into a permanent work of beauty, burning off their pain into the eternity of words or music or visual art. If Shakespeare had not pondered meaninglessness tied up in adolescent angst, would we have benefited from Hamlet? If Edvard Munch had not had a panic attack in 1892 on the streets of Oslo, then he would not have produced The Scream.
You had the foresight to deliberately want your words staged and sung. And you were careful with the details.
“לַמְנַצֵּ֥חַ – For the conductor/director of music. אֶל־הַ֜נְּחִיל֗וֹת – with wind instruments (flutes?).
What a chord your gesture seems to have struck among those manning their particular anti-Israel barricades these days. Their feelings and thoughts, their purity and truth, their banners and slogans, and their ethical superiority in supporting Hamas, could not remain a private matter. It had to be performed. Because quite clearly, when Israeli babies have been beheaded and Holocaust survivors in wheelchairs have been kidnapped, the protesters needed to get out front—lest we draw the wrong conclusions, the easy and obvious condemnations–and show us the true path, the right way to think, what the Soviets and Mao, without irony, used to call rehabilitation.
And so, the media’s despicable maligning of Hamas’ “right to resistance,” the scandal of the freedom fighters’ stained reputation – all this needed addressing. Immediately. An act of bravery was required in holding rallies and hacking their way through the dangerous jungles of Manhattan and Cambridge and Berkeley. It was difficult, and naturally they were bound to be misunderstood by the lackeys who support the villagers and farmers of Re’im and Be’eri, Nahal Oz and Kfar Aza, those hotbeds of colonialist oppression, all of whom are all clearly part of the “deep state.” Not to mention the propogandists who do not have the intelligence to comprehend that the random mowing down of hundreds of festival goers, dancing and singing about love and oneness in the sand, is a vital necessity in the pursuit of justice. Perhaps one day the confused, who shed tears for those corpses, will finally come around. But, in the meantime, it is showtime.
For the conductor, “From the river to the sea.” With wind instruments, “Palestine will be free.”
David you were sent reeling by deceit, you could not abide duplicitousness. And you are certain that God as well assigns such people to the lowest circle of Hell. But that is not really enough for you, is it? You want them exposed. It is not just their evil which rankles you, but the idea that it would go unnoticed, not in heaven but on earth, with an insufficient response by supposedly good people. It is the disgrace of neutrality, as much as the toxicity of wrongdoing, that leaves you sleepless and despondent.
In our age, David, we know exactly what it means to be passive when the jackboots start hitting the ground. But what happens when the Big Lie leaks out everywhere yet again? In Ankara (big surprise). In Amman and Beirut and Tehran (bigger surprise…). But also in London. In Berlin. From New York to LA, from Bulgaria to Toronto, oh, how the rivers of the righteous are flowing. “[But] when bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle,” writes Edmund Burke in 1770, an unsentimental reminder of the task before us.
“Declare them guilty, O God.” There is a time of war and a time for peace. A time to love and a time to hate. A time to bemoan, to share things on the Internet, to wring our hands and yell about anti-Semitism. But we are past that now.
There is a time to get out there on the streets of the Diaspora, in the millions, and tens of millions, and march, and say, “Not a word from their mouth is sincere; their heart is filled with malice. Their throat is an open grave; though their tongues are smooth.” There is a time to be Jewish, publicly and openly, even performatively, whether you are actually a Jew or not, pray to God or revere atheism, light Shabbat candles or cigarettes on Friday night.
And you knew better than anyone, David. Now is the time.