Posts Tagged 'Violence'

Holding It All Together: Reflections After Recent Tragedies in Jerusalem

This week has been filled with more heart wrenching stories from the ongoing tragedies in Israel. In this context someone shared with me a poem of Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai. The poem is called “The Diameter of the Bomb”.

The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters
and the diameter of its effective range about seven meters,
with four dead and eleven wounded.
And around these, in a larger circle
of pain and time, two hospitals are scattered
and one graveyard. But the young woman
who was buried in the city she came from,
at a distance of more than a hundred kilometers,
enlarges the circle considerably,
and the solitary man mourning her death
at the distant shores of a country far across the sea
includes the entire world in the circle.
And I won’t even mention the crying of orphans
that reaches up to the throne of God and
beyond, making a circle with no end and no God.

What is the full impact of violence? Is anyone truly spared from the effect of destruction in the world? The words “no end” in the last line in Hebrew אין סוף- ein sof  is one of the ways we refer to God. So in some sense this violence itself might impact God or even be an act of deicide . Does violence know any limits? In a very poetic way Amichai is describing the etiology of tragedy inside the “thirty centimeters” of a bomb.  What did this world look like before this big bang?

I was thinking about this when reading Toldot, this week’s Torah portion, when we read about the pregnancy of Rivka. There we read;

And the Lord said to her: Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples shall be separated from your bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger (Genesis 25:23).

At the simplest level Rivka learned about her discomfort with being pregnant with twins. The prophecy did not just warn her about carrying two fetuses in her womb; she had “two peoples” in her body. There is no wonder that she is not comfortable; she was to give birth to entire nations with her body being transformed into a proverbial clown car. On a deeper look, while this might have been said to allay her biological fears of a difficult pregnancy, she is left with the psychological horror of having to parent two children who will be at each others’ throats. Her womb is holding together a history of war similar to  Amichai’s bomb.

While we are all God’s children, God is alone in seeing the unfolding of our history of bloody sibling rivalry. The pregnant Rivka embodies the internalization of the pain of the clash of civilizations. She represents the discomfort of knowing that there will be strife in the future between two people who share much in common and should love each other as brothers. I am not saying that Rivka and Yitzhak were the best parents, but I do want to connect with her fear for the future. This reminds me of what Golda Meir said to Anwar Saddat, “We can forgive you for killing our sons. But we will never forgive you for making us kill yours.” When will we both be ready to struggle together to achieve a lasting peace? I hope that we can keep the hopes and aspirations of a pregnant mother in mind.

 

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Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Mickey, Noah, and Gun Control

This past week I had the pleasure to take a group of camp professionals and educators to a backstage tour of Disney. We got to see how they “over-manage” the people, place, and policies of Disney to ensure spectacular costumer service and remarkable mission alignment. It was great, but a little scary that Mickey Mouse is everywhere. At night our group met under Mickey’s hat from Fantasia to go see the “town”. In the context of trying to learn about the magic of Disney it is not surprising to this iconic image of Mickey as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice all over the place.   images

So what is the story of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice? The scene starts with Sorcerer Yen Sid working on his magic and his apprentice Mickey doing the chores. After soindexme magic, Yen Sid puts his hat down and retires to his room. When he is out of sight, Mickey puts the hat on and tries the magic on a broom. He commands the broom to carry buckets of water to fill a vat. Mickey is satisfied, he sits on the chair and falls asleep. He dreams he is a powerful sorcerer high on top of the world commanding the stars, planets, and water. Mickey wakes up to find the room is filled with water, the vat is overflowing, and the broom is not stopping. Mickey tries to stop the broom but with no success. He grabs an ax and chops the broom into many pieces. Just when it seems that it is all over, the pieces grow into more brooms with buckets of water. The brooms keep going to the vat and fill it up. Mickey tries to get the water out but they were too many brooms. Mickey goes to a book and looks for a spell to stop the brooms. Mickey finds himself in a whirlpool. Just then, Yen Sid comes in and sees this and with a wave of his hands, the water descends and the army of brooms decreases to one broom. Yen Sid glares at Mickey who gives him back his hat back and the broom. He picks up the buckets and starts back slowly to finish his chores. At the end, Yen Sid whacks Mickey from behind with the broom and Mickey runs out.

As I was traveling around Disneyland I could not help thinking about Noah, this week’s Torah Portion. There we read about God cleansing the world from evil. There we read:

And the earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah: ‘The end of all flesh is come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. ( Genesis 6:11-13)

On one level there is the interesting role that Noah plays as God’s loyal apprentice. But in this case, as compared to Mickey, Noah does his job well and actually saves humanity from God’s heavy duty water cleaning service. A more interesting connection is to the presence of Hamas– violence in the world. Why would otherwise good people act so poorly?

This is connect to a scene in Sorcerer’s Apprentice that you might have missed. As a mentioned above, Micbreakkey lost control of the broom and could not stop it. At a critical moment he takes out an ax thinking it will stop the broom. Instead of stopping the broom it increased his problem exponentially creating many more brooms flooding the room. This seems to connect to our cycle of violence and incarceration and the lack of gun control in this country. When someone does an offense we send them to prison which has not proven to rehabilitate them. Violence is met with violence increasing violence exponentially. All in the name of maintaining control. Why didn’t Mickey just remove the bucket from the broom?  Wayne Lapierre head of the NRA is oft quoted saying, The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.” The answer to destruction cannot be violence which will make even more destruction in the world. Why is it normal for us to expect that Mickey would just take an ax to the broom? This points at the banality of evil both ancient and contemporary.

 


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