Friday, September 02, 2005

A Lament for New Orleans*
(Now with update!)

Oh, how she sits in solitude. The city that teemed with people has become like a widow. She that was great among the nations, the princess among provinces, has become a tributary. She weeps bitterly in the night, and her tear is on her cheek . . . .

*with thanks to the prophet Jeremiah, who put it better than I ever could.

*** UPDATE***

I was wondering how long it would take for someone to post a comment like this:

I don't wish to leave a rude comment but I find it offensive that you can use Eicha as a source of poetry which was refering to the holy city of Jerusalem and use it for New Orleans which was the bastation of Tumah in the United States. I do not mean to mitigate the tradgedy but this is totally, in my opinion, wrong.

So let me explain.

I'm not attempting to draw any spiritual comparison between New Orleans and Jerusalem. Anyone who reads my blog has to know that.

However, the image of a city 80 percent under water, and the people living in such squalid conditions . . . well, next Tisha B'Av, when we speak of Jerusalem being bereft, and mothers eating their children, and people dying in the streets, their bodies left there to rot . . . it won't be so abstract to me anymore.

Of course, on a spiritual level, Jerusalem means more to me than New Orleans ever did. But New Orleans is now, and Jerusalem was a long time ago. In every other way but spiritual, I relate to New Orleans more, because what is happening there now is happening in front of our eyes. It's not part of history, it's not part of our collective memory. It's not a sadness that has to be conjured up because we have a religious or communal obligation to feel sadness. I feel sadness because the tragedy is unfolding in real time.

If I feel this sad about New Orleans, how much more so should I feel sad about the destruction of Jerusalem, oh so long ago? I don't know why God has done what He did to the Gulf Coast, but one small impact it has had on me is that now Eichah (the book of Lamentations) is much more vivid and real for me.

Oh, and by the way, given that thousands of people who were created in the image of God are suffering horribly, I don't think that my application of two pesukim from Nach to describe it is such a terrible thing. The Jews don't have a monopoly on suffering, you know. The wonderful thing about Tanach is its application for all time, in all places, yes? The rest of Eichah may not apply, but the first two verses fit very well.

And I think you meant to say "bastion," right?

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