Reflections in the Key of Anguish

by Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton

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 sooth 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 web site.

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, worshiped 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 will come to me.

I’ll keep listening for it.

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One thought on “Reflections in the Key of Anguish

  1. I just read your blog post about the key of anguish. I too cannot find words and among those not found are thanks for this strengthening piece. I am a Christian American who came to love both Israelis and Palestinians during years living in the Middle East…yet without a single syllable of guidance to anyone — there or here — on what should be done about the “Israeli-Palestinian problem.” Solutions belong to them, not me. Praying, working, living for peace is for me and loving all those I will always love. Thank you so much.

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