I made a crucial typo in yesterday’s post. It should have read, “Therefore it’s impossible for something to exist without God knowing and understanding it. Therefore God can’t find me weird and unlikeable.” I put “with” instead of “without.” Whoops. Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable has a whole long list of historical editions of the Bible that, thanks to typos, enjoined readers to “sin on more” instead of “sin no more” or commanded them that “Thou shalt commit adultery” missing the “not” or suggested that “The fool hath said in his heart there is a God” (instead of “no god”). Ahem. At least my mistake won’t cost me anything; the missing “no” in the last quote cost the printers £3000 (a huge sum of money in the seventeenth century) and the edition was suppressed, so they couldn’t make anything back from it.
Anyway, Shabbat (the Sabbath) was OK. I was mostly bouncing back and forth between depression and sort-of OKness. I worried a bit that I made a mistake in breaking up with E., or that I didn’t make a mistake, but I will still be single forever. I think I had some other depressive thoughts, but I don’t remember what they were now. I know I had a few morbid thoughts about my parents dying. I slept a lot again, hence feeling really awake now (midnight) and not sure what to do.
The one really good thing that happened was something I came across in the holy book Sacred Fire: Torah from the Years of Fury 1939-1942 by the Piaseczno Rebbe, Rabbi Kalonymus Kalmish Shapira, translated by J. Hershy Worch. It’s from a sermon delivered in the Warsaw Ghetto on Shabbat Shekalim (Mishpatim), 14 February 1942, in the middle of the Holocaust. I’m going to quote it at length:
For behold! A Jew, tortured in his suffering, may think he is the only one in pain, as though his individual, personal pain, and the pain of all other Jews, has no affect Above, God forbid. But, as the verse (Isaiah 63:9) says, “In all their pain is His pain,” and as we learn in the Talmud (Hagigah 15b) in the name of R. Meir, “When a person suffers, to what expression does the Shechinah (Divine) give utterance? ‘O woe! My head, O woe! My arms.’” In sacred literature we learn that God, as it were, suffers the pain of a Jew much more than that person himself feels it.
Possibly because God is infinite – and hence unknowable in the world – His pain at the suffering of Jewish people is also infinite. Perhaps it is just impossible for any human to feel such immense pain, it is impossible even to apprehend the level of God’s pain, to know that He bears it.
Hagigah is actually one of the few masechtot (volumes) of Talmud I actually own a hard copy of, so I looked up the reference. In the Steinsaltz (Koren Noé) Edition Talmud, the translation explains that this pain (‘O woe! My head, O woe! My arms.’) is referring to someone who is in pain because he has been sentenced to lashes or to death by the court (in ancient times, when Jewish courts permitted corporal and capital punishment). The Talmud goes on to say, if God feels so much pain when a wicked person is punished, how much more so when a righteous person is in pain. In fact, the quotation comes in a whole long narrative about Elisha ben Avuyah the Talmudic rabbi who became a heretic, and how some of the rabbis tried to get him into Heaven (so to speak) after his death even though he was very wicked.
So this would indicate that God does feel my pain and care about me on an individual level, not just because I’m human/Jewish (I know it is a very particularist Jewish text, like a lot of Jewish texts, particularly mystical ones). This is the question that has been bothering me for a couple of years now. I’m not sure what I feel now I have an answer. I think I do feel closer to God. I’m not sure what else I feel. My mood has been going up and down, as I said.
That’s all I have to say tonight.