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baltimoresun.com

In Gaza, songs of anguish

4:50 PM EST, November 21, 2012

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I am a singer and a rabbi, and I would rather sing to you right now, because you have probably read too many words, heard too much raw speech, about Israel and Gaza. It would be better to soothe and distract. But I feel compelled to find words. Just words.

Biblical verses and fragments of songs jostle for recognition and repetition, but I can’t hear then clearly enough. Instead, I’m trapped in the compulsion to read every report, go to every website.

It feels disrespectful to say that I feel inundated or bombarded by all the words, when there are too many who are actually being bombarded.

To recite a litany of some things on this “side” and some things on that “side” feels like a desecration, a less-than-holy thing to write. I’m a rabbi; I have comforted at hospital beds, in houses of mourning; celebrated in times of joys, worshipped on the holy days, learned and taught with children and the young at heart, and know that trauma is trauma. No proportionality need qualify the permanence, and the destructiveness, of its impact.

My heart is heavy now, listening and reading way too much, way too many words, pulling me back to the days of Operation Cast Lead. A friend wondered, then, why I was so absorbed, so anguished, from so far away. How can I explain now, to anyone -- to family, to clergy colleagues, to friends -- how profoundly I want to find a way to wail the song: no more bombing in my name.

The diploma on the wall speaks: You! Find words, analyze, contextualize. I reply, resisting: I don’t have to come up with political solutions.  Let me just sing.

But I’m pulled to this keyboard, not to the other one, tapping at the letters to drown out the songs of anguish. Maybe, soon, a new melody in the key of tselem elohim [Genesis 1:27] -- all humans created in the image of the Divine -- will come to me.

I’ll keep listening for it.

Elizabeth Bolton, Baltimore

The writer is the Rabbi Emerita of Reconstructionist Congregation Beit Tikvah in Baltimore and a member of the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Cabinet.