Thursday, August 18, 2011

Too Much Joy

Last Saturday was a planning day for an upcoming retreat for a prayer group I belong to.  It will be an intense 3-day weekend for a large group and we are trying to get the details of food prep, set up, clean up, etc., sorted out and nailed down ahead of time.  Six hours of planning requires some play mixed in, so at one point we formed two circles, one within the other, inner circle facing out, outer circle facing in.  The outer circle then moved to their right, one person at a time, singing a version of "Shalom Chaverim".  An essential part of this is to look into your partner's eyes as you sing and bow to each other - the song is personally directed to the person you are facing.  That's really rather hard, especially for those who have spent a lot of time in cities.  My daughter and I have often commented on how disconcerting it was when I moved into a more rural area.  People were friendly.  They made eye contact.  In the city eye contact is interpreted as a territorial threat - you don't do it.

Anyway, I've loved this simple song ever since I first heard it, and wondered if it was Hasidic in origin:

Because the Hasidim keep to themselves and appear so different with their dark clothes, long side locks, and tasseled prayer aprons, most people don't realize that they are a people of great joy, song, and laughter.

They exult the Shekinah Glory of God while finding Him in all the details of their lives.
Father of all worldly things:
You create your world afresh each passing second,
And were you to withdraw your loving kindness from creation,
All would be as nothing in the twinkling of an eye.
But moment by moment you empty the vessels of blessing upon
   your creatures:
The morning stars appear again and sing you their love song
And the sun sallies forth boldly to sing its song of strength.
And the poor man cloaks himself again and bares his heart to you,
And again his soul's prayer cleaves your heavens as it ascends before you,
And again his body breaks beneath your terrible glory,
And again his eye is lifted towards you.
But one ray of your light and I abound in light,
But one word from you and I am reborn,
But one tremor of your eternal life and I am drenched in the dew
    of childhood.
O you who create all anew, O Father, create me, your child, anew.
Breathe in me the breath of your nostrils and I will live a new life,
    even a new life of childhood.     (Hillel Zeitlin)
Ninety-five percent of the Hasidim of Europe were slaughtered in the Holocaust.  It was as if the rage of Hitler's neo-pagan Nazism couldn't stand to be faced with so much joy.

It's day 18 of Islam's Ramadan.  So far, this supposedly holy season has seen 83 terror attacks by radical Muslims, resulting in 335 deaths.  That doesn't include the latest attacks.  I have very little hope that the Hasidim, with their radiant mysticism, will survive this reviving evil if it isn't stopped.


  1. Good post and good points! Hope things go well!

  2. Thank-you for this great post