In 1994, Hillel and family were in Jerusalem when word came through of
Goldstein's massacre of Muslims at prayer in Hebron. This was written
following those events:
by Hillel Goelman
??_Even before the massacre I'd been having trouble. The pain of seeing refugee camps, poverty on the West Bank, discrimination in Israel. It is a blinding light that keeps so many here from seeing the hard realities.
??_ Reality is a hard place to live and that's where Israel does live. On the other extreme, when I read and learn about the incredible building of life that has happened here in the face of so much difficulty, its just amazing._ Pre-1948, post-1948._ So much collective effort, spiritual and physical. So much has been built in so many realms; the realities here are overwhelming, the possibilities amazing.
??_ But the massacre focused so much of my pain and disappointment. The
problem of religious people so prominent in right-wing rejectionist and racist
policies._ The absence of spirtual/moral leadership._ The anger and distance of
the non-religious and non-Jewish; seeing the (knitted) kipah sruga and talit
katan as a symbol of hatred and oppression. Yes: see the threads and remember._
??_I feel like Purim was taken away from me this year._ Instead of a joyous 3 day Yerushalayim Purim m'shulash, we wake up to the news that the Purim story had ended abruptly, differently than we remembered it._ The destruction takes place, the masks are off, and it is the Haman in us who triumphs.
??_ I try to change the feeling but it is impossible._ Jerusalem is bent out
of shape, first because of Purim, then because of the massacre, and then it's
all one big distortion._ I feel like I'm kind of surfing above the currents,
the waves of Purim without really getting wet._ I try to smell the surf, dive
into waves and I can't and I don't know which side of the illusion I'm on.
??_ We spend Friday night dinner with Yehoshua and Emunah Witt and their 11 (soon to be 12) children and about another 10 guests. It's the kind of Shabbat I've been yearning for._ Light and warm, close and intimate._ And yet its still hard to breathe into it as the sharp memory of massacre keeps sticking into me whenever I find myself drifting towards comfort.
??_Shabbat day is hard, my soul has no rest._ Saying "al ha nisim" is a housecleaning chore with no intention behind it._ Havdala mocks me: "la yehudim.." "the Jews felt great joy" straight from the Megilla._ Dividing time between light and darkness, Shabbat and the week; the divisions are no longer so clear
??_ Sunday the kids dress up and we head for the Israel Museum for a Purim party: massive people, massive rains, massive news, massive riots in the territories and in Israel; its all overwhelming, almost too much on too many different levels.
??_We take the kids to see the movie of the 3 Musketeers._ Right defeats wrong, all for the one and the one is for all._ Unity, the 3 musketeers become 4, the Divine name is reassembled, love, honour and blessing are the true currencies of the realm of life._ The lights go up, the rains continue.
???_Walking uphill/upstream, catching a cab, a bus making my way to Yehoshua's for a Purim seudah, my last try to find Purim._ Through the alleys of the Nachlaot_ neighbourhoods, its not Jerusalem any more but Munkatch, Breslov, Tchortkov, Chernobyl, Uman, Lvov, all the places where Jews prayed for redemption._ The house is light and full and singing._ My question to Yehoshua: why does it say in the Torah "elohim masecha lo taasu - Don't makes gods with masks" and then on Purim God hides (hester panim) from us._ Yehoshua smiles._ "Hillel, what do you think this is - a yeshiva?" Laughter and song._ I sip the vodka I slip away.
??_ Wandering in the rain I want to get lost and not find myself. Through
this door?_ This seudah?_ This shule?_ This courtyard? It's Purim. All bets are
off, all rules suspended and I wonder which way to turn.
??_ Monday I look in the newspaper for the Chief Rabbis of Israel and
other prominent religious "leaders" to express in unambiguous terms
that this massacre is the complete manifestation of "hilul HaShem",
the absolute desecration of God's name._ That this horrible act is precisely
the kind of degradation which typified the "sinat hinam", senseless
hatred which caused the destruction the Temple, the exile of Jews from their
land and the withdrawal of the Divine presence from our midst._ That today, no,
that all week we should say psalms to God, ask collective forgiveness, perform
the mitzvah of "minahem avel" comforting the mourners by going to
And there, in Ha'aretz, the leading newspaper, is the
????????????????????????????????_ A PUBLIC STATEMENT
??_ WE, RABBIS OF ISRAEL, EXPRESS OUR OUTRAGE AND CONDEMNATION WITH ALL OUR HEARTS, THE SHOCKING MURDERS COMMITTED BY A JEW IN HEVRON, OF INNOCENT PEOPLE, CREATED IN THE IMAGE OF GOD, COMPLETELY INNOCENT PEOPLE.
???_THERE IS NO WAY TO EXPLAIN, AND NO ATONEMENT FOR THE MURDER OF PEOPLE PRAYING BEFORE THE CREATOR OF ALL LIFE. AS PEOPLE AND AS JEWS, WE ARE ANGUISHED OVER THE BLOOD WHICH HAS BEEN SPILT, THIS DESECRATION OF GOD'S NAME.
???_WE CALL ON EVERYONE WHO HAS WITHIN THEIR POWER TO ACT, TO DENOUNCE_ AND TO ERADICATE THOSE ACTIONS WHICH REVEAL AN UNDERSTANDING AND AGREEMENT WITH THIS HORRIBLE ACT.
??_ "IF THERE IS EVIL IN YOUR HAND, PUT IT FAR AWAY AND LET NOT ITS
WICKEDNESS DWELL IN YOUR TENTS" (Job, 14)
I read this and knew that, simply, as Jews we weep, as
surely the Divine presence weeps._ And once again we undertake the continuing
task of trying to bring light and Torah into the world. And then I wrote this:
(Yom K') Purim
The unspeakable horror
of a kipah-wearing Jew
shooting Moslems worshipping the God Almighty
in the tomb of our ancestors.
The tomb of Abraham,
symbol of love, unconditional hesed,
and the welcoming of everyone to his tent.
Bowing at the knees,
they prostrate themselves in the body language of "baruch",
accessing Divine blessing,
attempting to bring, through their understanding,
Divine presence into the world.
Their bodies as supplicants,
re-formed vessels inviting in the One.
Shattering the vessels is another "Baruch"
a shattered vessel himself
unable/unwilling to receive, hold, focus
his own perception of the Divine light.
The terrible and awesome is released in hatred
shatters the light into an infinite array of shards,
prisms of pain, piercing, tearing,
And what do we know about God and light?
The ultimate obscenity of witnessing our own
bloody hand of destruction on the day,
with absolute cruellest of ironies,
we recall our own redemption from destruction.
The manifestation of the absurd, chance, masks,
and reality bent all out of shape,
the lowly made powerful
the strong defeated.
What do we know?
A friend teaches at shule
a dvar Torah on Shabbat
with deep feeling on the mitzvah of
"ad lo yadah", getting so drunk on
Purim we can't tell the difference;
between anything: good/bad, right/wrong,
beyond differentiation and division
to the One.
A key word here is "ad", until.
Getting right up until that point of losing the
ability to differentiate -
but not losing it.
"Ad" can also be read "aid":
to point of witnessing
the terribleness of going beyond not being
able to tell the difference
between the Godly and not Godly.
Or maybe its not "ad" but 'da":
Know the difference between
being able to tell the difference
and not being able to tell the difference.
Another teaching comes to me from long ago
from my friend Reb Itzchak.
on the verse: "macho timchech et zecher amalek",
Itzchak taught me that its not
"wiping out the memory"
of Amalek, source of evil in the world.
It's "wipe out any consciousness
of Amalek" which is in the world.
The consciousness that permits the dehumanizing of others
and allows for their obliteration.
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