Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Ha Ohelim.

I am out of sorts. And these are the words I sing.
Sh'ma Elohim rinati, haqshivah, t'philati.
Miqtseh ha'aretz, elecha eqrah -- va'atoph livi.
V'tsuryorum mimeni tanheni ki hayitah mahsetli migdal otz mipenoyev.
Agura v'ahalkah, umalim; echeseh ve'seter chenaphecha. Selah.
It is my own transliteration of Psalm 61:2-5. A prayer that says,
Hear my cry, O G-d, attend unto my prayer.
From the end of the earth I will call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to a rock that is too high for me.
For you have been a refuge for me, a tower of strength in the face of the enemy.
I will dwell in your tent forever, I will take refuge in the cover of your wings. Selah.
Selah? A word that can't seem to be translated, found in many of the psalms. Or as Merriam-Webster says: "a term of uncertain meaning found in the Hebrew text of the Psalms and Habakkuk carried over untranslated into some English versions." Some say it is purely for the musical nature of the psalms. It represents a pause in the text. Others say that it serves as a reminder of the significance and importance of the prior words. I suppose it doesn't help that even ancient biblical commentators didn't mention the word or its meaning.

There is something unimaginable, special about reading the Hebrew and knowing the translation, feeling the words as they present themselves. One semester of biblical Hebrew and several years at shul have given me a vocabulary necessary for completing phrases and speaking the prayers in the morning and evening and being able to whisper them as I move through dark hallways and along tree-lit paths.


I went out tonight and got some ice cream. I was feeling lonely, despondent. I went over to Glover Park (also the name of my neighborhood) where there often are baseball games being played. I sat down on the top step, four steps above a kid in a baseball cap clapping furiously for two teams of men he didn't know. I watched two teams lob balls into the outfield, scoring a few runs and eventually some home runs. The team in full black had a double header, so I went inside to the Whole Foods and bought a drink for the second game. The team in all black was having its way with the other teams, and I was at peace, for a bit.

It reminded me of my entire childhood, until we moved to Nebraska. The first 12 1/2 years of my life, or what I remember of them, I was on the baseball field more or less every summer. First it was dad playing with his work team and then it was my older brother playing tee-ball and then baseball and up into high school. I spent a lot of time hating the time on the field, and a lot of time loving it. My best friend's dad practically ran the league in Joplin, Missouri. We'd pick up trash in exchange for a free Chick-O-Stick or full pickle from the concession folks. If we picked up a foul ball, we'd get a free small soda. We spent most of our time with the other kids our age behind the brick building that housed the bathrooms. There were piles of wood that we would never sit on, but we'd play our own games and talk. When my little brother was born my friends and I got kicks out of watching him interact with a little girl a few days older than him named Chloe. We pretended they were destined to be together becuase not only were they born in the same hospital days apart, but their big brothers played in the same league. I was a child and on that field I was free. Until midnight or later we'd dance around with the fireflies until the last crack of the ball against a bat. Families would pour out of the parking lot on the rocks and dirt and the crunching is a sound I'll never forget. Dust rolling up from behind the train of cars is an image that sits with me every summer. Sometimes I'd stay at my friend's house and sometimes she'd stay at mine. Summertime was ours. Occasional we'd go to Country Kitchen with the winning team and eat chicken fingers or mozzarella sticks.

The dust, the chalky dirt the color of earth, pickles, chick-o-sticks, large black plastic bags, bottles of water, yellow-colored brick structures, lights with a haze of bugs and dirt below -- this was my summer as a child.
Sh'ma Elohim rinati, haqshivah, t'philati. Attend unto my prayer, Adonai.