Monday, February 26, 2007

Tehillim and the Dialogue in the Darkness.

Last week I accompanied my students from Emuna VeOmanut on an exceptional day trip. One of our visits was to the Children's Museum in Holon.

We went to visit a participatory exhibit called "Dialogue in the Darkness." The aim of the "experience" is to make a person understand a little what it is like to experience life as a non-seeing person. In short, we entered into a series of rooms that are so, so, black that one cannot see a thing. I have never experienced such absolute darkness. Each room gives a familiar human surrounding which one must now explore anew as one cannot see; hence you have to use other senses such as touch, smell, hearing, movement etc.

It is a place in which one learns a great deal. We have to confront the unknown, our fear of touching, feeling, falling, failing when we cannot see. We learn how much we can "see" when we cannot use our visual sense. I was amazed at how I could recognise many students simply by their voice. And one of the incredible things there are the tour guides who are all visually impaired or blind, and they are our guides! They are so confident, mobile, and reassuring in an environment in which we feel so hesitant, so crippled.

It is a special revealing experience. I advise any reader to get a group together and book a visit.

But I want to add a special insight I had there. At the end of the tour, there is time to have a "dialogue in the darkness" as the guide sits with you in the pitch black and discusses, and probes the experience that we have just undergone. Do you need to see a person to "know" them? Is the visual sense distracting? Falsifying? Or revealing? (Good pre-Purim questions re. our disguises, God's hidden-ness etc.) Our guide was amazing, and she loved our group. At some point in the tour, the students had begun singing. She clearly loved it, because at the end she requested that we sing the song Esah Einai.

I have never understood that perek of Tehillim so deeply, so incredibly.

When you have just been in an environment in which you were afraid even to walk, suddenly the meaning of אל יתן למוט רגלך takes on a fresh meaning! But it is far more than that.
תהלים פרק קכא
(א) שִׁיר לַמַּעֲלוֹת אֶשָּׂא עֵינַי אֶל הֶהָרִים מֵאַיִן יָבֹא עֶזְרִי:

What are the "hills"? Some mepharshim suggest that when a person is in distress he wonders whether maybe some unknown force will emerge from beyond the hills. It may represent one raising ones eyes upwards looking towards God. But the peshat (see Daat Mikra) is that I am going through hilly terrain, steep inclines gape beneath my steps. מאין יבא עזרי: Who will look after me, guide me, keep me safe? How will I not fall? Lose energy? How can I navigate the twisting mountain path?

The answer is God!
(ב) עֶזְרִי מֵעִם יְדֹוָד עֹשֵׂה שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ:
(ג) אַל יִתֵּן לַמּוֹט רַגְלֶךָ אַל יָנוּם שֹׁמְרֶךָ:
(ד) הִנֵּה לֹא יָנוּם וְלֹא יִישָׁן שׁוֹמֵר יִשְׂרָאֵל:

God never sleeps, He never stops guarding us. But how does his guardianship, his protection express itself? Listen to this:

(ה) יְדֹוָד שֹׁמְרֶךָ יְדֹוָד צִלְּךָ עַל יַד יְמִינֶךָ:
(ו) יוֹמָם הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ לֹא יַכֶּכָּה וְיָרֵחַ בַּלָּיְלָה:

God's protection manifests itself through the light! The sun, the moon are always theer! I can see! And so I will not fall. God is my SHADOW! Because as the light is dim, he compensates. He always follows me like a shadow. But in fact, I believe that the sun and moon are not simply a metaphor for the constant presence of God. Maybe we are saying that the light ITSELF is essentially the gift that protects us when we need to manouver the hills, the mountains.

(ז) יְדֹוָד יִשְׁמָרְךָ מִכָּל רָע יִשְׁמֹר אֶת נַפְשֶׁךָ:
(ח) יְדֹוָד יִשְׁמָר צֵאתְךָ וּבוֹאֶךָ מֵעַתָּה וְעַד עוֹלָם:

Suddenly after you have been through the museum, you realise that God guarding you when you "go in" and "go out" is not simple at all. Our every faculty of sight is so precious. It is such a gift from God! The very notion of light itself is simply the most unbelievable dimension of God's wonderful protection and care.

Suddenly the simple existence of light in our lives becomes God's greatest miracle, his most benevolent grace.

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