PSALM 44
 
Sarah Richards, James Grady, Kimberly Wachs, and Samuel Lampert
 
Text
 
Explication
 
A Response / Prayer
 
The Guilty One Faces His Victim
 
A Third-Generation Response
 
Re-Texting
 
Poem of Pain
 
 
 
TEXT
For the leader. Of the Korahites. A maskil.
 
2We have heard, O God,
our fathers have told us
the deeds You performed in their time,
in days of old.
3With Your hand You planted them,
displacing nations;
You brought misfortune on peoples,
and drove them out.
4It was not by their sword that they took the land,
their arm did not give them victory,
but Your right hand, Your arm, and Your goodwill,
for You favored them.
5You are my king, O God;
decree victories for Jacob!
6Through You we gore our foes;
by Your name we trample our adversaries;
7I do not trust in my bow;
it is not my sword that gives me victory;
8You give us victory over our foes;
You thwart those who hate us.
9In God we glory at all times,
and praise Your name unceasingly. Selah.
 
10Yet You have rejected and disgraced us;
You do not go with our armies.
11You make us retreat before our foe;
our enemies plunder us at will.
12You let them devour us like sheep;
You disperse us among the nations.
13You sell Your people for no fortune,
You set no high price on them.
14You make us the butt of our neighbors,
the scorn and derision of those around us.
15You make us a byword among the nations,
a laughingstock among the peoples.
16I am always aware of my disgrace;
I am wholly covered with shame
17at the sound of taunting revilers,
in the presence of the vengeful foe.
 
18All this has come upon us,
yet we have not forgotten You,
or been false to Your covenant.
19Our hearts have not gone astray,
nor have our feet swerved from Your path,
20though You cast us, crushed, to where the sea monster is,
and covered us over with deepest darkness.
21If we forgot the name of our God
and spread forth our hands to a foreign god,
22God would surely search it out,
for He knows the secrets of the heart.
23It is for Your sake that we are slain all day long,
that we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.
 
24Rouse yourself; why do You sleep, O Lord?
Awaken, do not reject us forever!
25Why do You hide Your face,
ignoring our affliction and distress?
26We lie prostrate in the dust;
our body clings to the ground.
27Arise and help us,
redeem us, as befits Your faithfulness.
 
EXPLICATION
 
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Sarah Richards
 
 For the leader. Of the Korahites. A maskil.
 
2We have heard, O God,
our fathers have told us
the deeds You performed in their time,
in days of old.
3With Your hand You planted them,
displacing nations;
You brought misfortune on peoples,
and drove them out.
4It was not by their sword that they took the land,
their arm did not give them victory,
but Your right hand, Your arm, and Your goodwill,
for You favored them.
In this section, the psalmist is invoking stories of past works of God. This serves to remind God that these are children of those previous warriors, and just as the fathers deserved victory, so do the sons. All credit is given to God for any victory, and the people here acknowledge that God's help is necessary for a victory today. The battle imagery is begun here with the mentioning of "swords" and "victory". Also noted are the images associated with "hand" and "arm". These are parts of the body associated with action. By attributing them to God, the psalmist is asking for action and real results rather than blessing or happiness. This psalm is set in the world of the physical, not the mental.
This section is written in the first person plural, so it may be recited by the entire group or by a spokesperson such as the priest.
 
5You are my king, O God;
decree victories for Jacob!
This section is suddenly singular, indicating that this is a more personal command. Perhaps this is the response part of something like a responsive reading. The leader recites for the group, and here each man affirms his own personal submission to God and asks for victory for his people.
 
6Through You we gore our foes;
by Your name we trample our adversaries;
Strong battle imagery is continued here, and the voice returns to the plural. Again this is a group readying for a bloody battle. There is no pretense that this will end well. It is clear that bloodshed will occur, and that the other side consists of true enemies.
 
7I do not trust in my bow;
it is not my sword that gives me victory;
8You give us victory over our foes;
You thwart those who hate us.
 Here, the 'aside' voice returns. The individual makes it clear that he is depending on God to carry him through. The weapons are useless without God's assistance. The individual reader also makes it clear that they as a group expect God to pull them through. This is more of a command than a plea.
 
9In God we glory at all times,
and praise Your name unceasingly. Selah.
One last time the group rallies together in prayer and praise before the battle, hoping to seal their good fate with God. The battle imagery is abandoned for a moment so that all attention can be turned toward praising God.
 
10Yet You have rejected and disgraced us;
You do not go with our armies.
11You make us retreat before our foe;
our enemies plunder us at will.
12You let them devour us like sheep;
You disperse us among the nations.
13You sell Your people for no fortune,
You set no high price on them.
14You make us the butt of our neighbors,
the scorn and derision of those around us.
15You make us a byword among the nations,
a laughingstock among the peoples.
 This accusatory section contains a detailed list of what the people consider to be sins against them. Each line accuses God of betraying His people using a different metaphor. The first few lines continue with the images of battle, indicating that the fight is over and the people have been nearly eradicated. Now that the battle is over, the psalmist also turns to different metaphoric images, portraying the people as sheep at one moment and as salable goods the next. Any way that the psalmist can describe the torment of the people, he includes. There is a constant play between "us" and "You" [God] to show that the former is weak and the latter, who was supposed to protect them, has not.
 
16I am always aware of my disgrace;
I am wholly covered with shame
17at the sound of taunting revilers,
in the presence of the vengeful foe.
 The individual voice adds a note about personal shame. This serves to ensure that God understands that each individual member of His covenant has been betrayed. No man is able to hide behind the security of the group because each person feels disgrace and must face the enemy alone.
 
18All this has come upon us,
yet we have not forgotten You,
or been false to Your covenant.
19Our hearts have not gone astray,
nor have our feet swerved from Your path,
20though You cast us, crushed, to where the sea monster is,
and covered us over with deepest darkness.
21If we forgot the name of our God
and spread forth our hands to a foreign god,
22God would surely search it out,
for He knows the secrets of the heart.
23It is for Your sake that we are slain all day long,
that we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.
 Again there is a play between "us" and "You" [God] as the people remind God that they have been loyal. Most lines contains some kind of righteous action by the people, complemented by betrayal from God. The psalmist is making it clear that the people are in the right while God is in the wrong. The tone is accusatory, and the emotion is most likely rage. The people are incredulous. They have kept the covenant and God has not. They are righteous and have suffered nonetheless.
 
24Rouse yourself; why do You sleep, O Lord?
Awaken, do not reject us forever!
25Why do You hide Your face,
ignoring our affliction and distress?
26We lie prostrate in the dust;
our body clings to the ground.
27Arise and help us,
redeem us, as befits Your faithfulness.
 Finally, the people tell God what to do next. In verses 24-25, they challenge God with a command, then a question, then a command, and a question again. This strategy can be likened to boxing. The psalmist comes in with a left, then right, then left, then right again. The people demand of God an action, then answer, then an action, and another answer. God cannot escape. Line 26 provides one last description of the people in their pitiful state in order that God will help them. Lastly, verse 27 ends the psalm with a command, telling God that redemption is deserved and necessary according to the faith that God Himself prescribed to the people.
 
A RESPONSE / PRAYER
 
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Sarah Richards
 
 
For Sarah. Wherever I am. A prayer.
 
O God, I know that you hear me,
I have been told that you are inside of me;
that I am like you, and you are like me.
With Your love you planted each emotion inside me,
displacing emptiness;
You brought me reason and wisdom at a young age,
and drove out my irrational fears.
It was not by hard work that I learned,
my persistence did not give me recognition,
but Your just love, Your gift of understanding, and Your goodwill,
for You favored me.
You are my guidance, O God;
bless me with a good heart!
Through You I find success;
by Your name I discover all I have ever known;
I do not trust in the outside world;
it is not by my voice that people know me;
You let me thrive inside myself;
You know that all I am lives inside.
In God I find companionship at all times,
and hope for Your presence unceasingly.
 
Yet You have rejected and disgraced me;
You do not go with me to school.
You make me hide from other children;
my classmates tear my heart to pieces at will.
You let them ignore me like refuse;
I am noticed only as a mockery.
You sell my voice for silence,
No one gains by my disappearance.
You make me a joke at recess,
the scorn and derision of those around me.
You make me a nothing among peers,
a laughingstock among all who know me.
I am always aware of my disgrace;
I am wholly covered with shame
at the sound of taunting children,
in the presence of their powerful rejection.
 
O God, I know that you hear me:
 
You turn me against myself;
You do not stop me from tearing at my flesh with a pen.
You make me fear my own hand;
my mind threatens me at will.
You let me lie awake in fear;
You cause me to scream in my sleep.
You destroy my ability to see hope,
You cast my self-trust into flames.
You make me feel comfort at the thought of tragedy,
my mind turns to horror for escape.
You make me a wanderer among my inner thoughts,
torn between feelings of hope and despair.
I am always aware of my wish to hear silence;
I am consumed by a need to be spared
from these torturous visions filling my head.
Even in the presence of love I feel lost.
 
O God, I know that you hear me:
 
You have turned away from my family;
You do not help my parents to find peace.
You make my sister and me fear our father's temper;
As our mother suppresses herself for years in order to save nothing.
You let two children come into our lives and leave again;
One as a bloody broken promise, the other as a chance to save a girl.
You thrust her into our home already mistrusting.
You knew how much she needed us, how we would come to need her.
You knew that she would abandon us as soon as we got too close,
just as she was used to being abandoned.
You make four and then five of us struggle together for two decades,
only to tear us apart in the course of a single year.
We are always lost now;
The ties we depended on have been shredded.
The word family is full of painful memories,
we try to start over alone.
 
 
 O God, I know that you hear me:
 
You have plagued me with aching and nausea;
You do not spare me from agony.
You make me shake and shiver and cry
when I should laugh and rejoice.
You watched me beat on my own back as a child;
You awaken me now with vomiting.
You mock my attempts to save myself,
You will not save me Yourself.
You make my body reject medicine,
the need to sleep overcomes me.
You make me fear all change,
and cower before your cruelty.
I am always aware of my anxiety;
I am a slave to my body's weaknesses,
with the threat of sickness at all times,
in the presence of physical distress.
 
 
All this has come upon me,
yet I have not forgotten You,
or been false to Your name.
My heart has not gone astray,
nor have I done harm to others as they have done to me.
Though You cast me, crushed, deep inside myself,
and covered me over with a cloud of gray hopelessness,
Did I forget the value of others?
Did I emerge from my hiding place to do evil?
Let God investigate these matters Himself!
For He knows the secrets of my heart.
It is for Your sake that I die all day long,
that my happiness is regarded as a sacrifice.
 
I am here, God!
Look at me! Do not abandon me forever!
Why do You hide Your face from me, who knows what it is to be hidden?
How can you ignore my pain?
I wait endlessly for a chance to feel secure;
yet I cling trembling to the remnants inside of me.
Feel my loneliness and destroy it!
Redeem me, as befits Your undying love.
 
THE GUILTY ONE FACES HIS VICTIM
 
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James Grady
 
This is an interpretation of Psalm 109 in opposition to Psalm 44. The words of a man convicted of rape and murder, as well as verses from Psalm 44 are set against the margin, while the words of the father of the victim of the grisly crime, as well as verses from Psalm 109 are inset. The psalms are in conversation, or rather conflict, as are the convict and the victim's father, "her representative." Italics are "stage notes," containing pertinent setting information. The Psalms are from the KJV of the Bible.
 
John Stephens, You have been convicted of felony rape and murder in the first degree. You maintain your innocence. The laws of this state allow your victim, or the surviving relatives of your victim, to confront you before the sentencing. The courts have often shown leniency in their sentences against convicts who show that they recognize the error of their ways. Remorse is a virtue in a man, John Stephens. You will be sentenced in this court in two days: tomorrow, you will face your accuser--your victim's father.
 
 We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old. I am innocent, Lord my God. Your eyes have seen all things--my hands are as clean as, as.... Save me, Lord my God. Save me. Save.... My appeals, I will win on appeal. How thou didst drive out the heathen with thy hand, and plantedst them; drive out the error of the law and plant Justice. How thou didst afflict the people, and cast them out : afflict those who accuse me wrongly--show them their error. For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them: but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favor unto them. You have shown others favor; You have favored the persecuted, the prisoners, the afflicted in every land. Give me that, Your finest grace, now--give me freedom. Thou art my King, O God: command deliverances for Jacob. And command my deliverance, also, Lord: Command the deliverance of Your servant John Stephens. Through thee will we push down our enemies: through thy name will we tread them under that rise up against us. With Your aid, O Lord, I cannot fail! For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me. Thou art a Sword of greatest precision--You will deliver me! But thou hast saved us from our enemies, and hast put them to shame that hated us. You have never let me down before! In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever. And I rest in You, my Fortress, in peace and in the knowledge that I shall be delivered. Selah.
 
 
The next day, John Stephens is led into a room, which contains a table and some chairs. A small, sullen man stands in the corner. Three guards stand ready.
 
I am the father of the little girl you killed, raped....
 
I did not kill your daughter. I did not rape her. Please.... Please, let me go!
 
Tell the truth, convict--you did it. Twelve men and women found you guilty. Hold not thy peace, O God of my praise; For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me: they have spoken against me with a lying tongue.
 
Find me twelve men and women who never made a mistake, and I'll show you twelve liars! I did not do it! Understand this--I will not lie to make you feel better! I have not lied. I did not kill your daughter.
 
You monster, you monster.... I'll kill you now, with my bare hands you ... you bastard. (guards restrain him) They compassed me about also with words of hatred; and fought against me without a cause. Give in--tell me the truth.
 
I'm finished. Guards, take me out of here.
 
I'm not finished. This is all for me, not you, convict. Just admit the truth. If you'll do that much, I'll ask the jury to spare your life. Please, I need to hear it....
 
I will not tell THAT lie for you! Never!
 
For my love they are my adversaries: but I give myself unto prayer. I offered you all the charity of a deserving brother and you spit in my face. I'll ask you again: a confession for mercy?
 
No.
 
And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love. Then it is done. So be it. I'll see you rot in hell. Charity be damned!
 
 
A day has now passed and we are in the court room. The prosecution has called on the victim's father to testify in the sentencing phase of the trial.
 
Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand. Let the executioner be at his heels--and the hounds of hell! When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin. No mercy! No mercy! He lies even as he speaks with God Almighty. Let his days be few; and let another take his office. And do not dally in carrying out the just reward. Number his days in months, not years. Let another life take up the space he is wasting! Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow. Do not remember those who love him! Forget! Forget, as he forgot that we loved our daughter as he raped and killed her! Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places. And do not hear the petitions of those he leaves behind--they are empty. Let them go away from here empty handed. Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labor. Take his life, his land, his property--he has given it to the devil any way. Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there be any to favor his fatherless children. Mercy, dash it to the sea. You owe mercy only to the dead. Let my daughter rest in peace knowing that he is in Hell! Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out. Let his life be taken that his evil shall never spread to new generations! Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the LORD; and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out. But let us never forget his sins, or the roots of his sins which dig into his youth.... Let them be before the LORD continually, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth. Never more, never more let him or his endanger honest citizens! Because that he remembered not to show mercy, but persecuted the poor and helpless girl, that he might even slay the broken in heart. Again, I say, think not of mercy. Remember how he failed at mercy. Remember the vile deeds he has done. Remember his evil forever. Remember mercy only after the deed is done! As he loved cursing, so let it come unto him: as he delighted not in blessing, so let it be far from him. He has cursed my family, taken our only child--take him now that he may never harvest the fruit of his rotten seed! As he clothed himself with cursing like as with his garment, so let it come into his bowels like water, and like oil into his bones. In his bones, especially, let his curse remain until man has ceased to walk on this tiny planet! Let it be unto him as the garment which covereth him, and for a girdle wherewith he is girded continually. Let the curse on him be all that people see, let it bind him to doom! Let this be the reward of mine adversaries from the LORD, and of them that speak evil against my soul. Do not forget your duty to my family, dear friends and neighbors. Kill him. Take his life. Blot him out of existence.
 
 
The jury deliberates and sentences John Stephens to death by lethal injection. He sits alone, now, many years later. His execution approaches.
 
But thou hast cast off, and put us to shame; and goest not forth with our armies. All my pleas have failed, Lord. They have fallen on deaf ears. Where were You? Do You not have the power? Why do You abandon me as everyone else? Thou makest us to turn back from the enemy: and they which hate us spoil for themselves. The law has no more recourse for me. I will die now, all alone. Not even You will be there, You who would not save me. Everyone loves the story--it's always in the news. The little girl's father wrote a book. It sold millions of copies. Perhaps You hadn't heard, wherever You are. Thou hast given us like sheep appointed for meat; and hast scattered us among the heathen. The heartless, the faithless--now their bloodthirst will be slaked, for a moment. Thou sellest thy people for nought, and dost not increase thy wealth by their price. What will my death benefit You, Lord of the Universe, Master of the World, Shaper of Creation? I would be a martyr, except the world thinks I am a faithless rapist and murderer. But in the face of Your greatness, what gain could You make on my fate? Thou makest us a reproach to our neighbors, a scorn and a derision to them that are round about us. No, You have given me up to my enemies, that they may scorn me, not knowing me as You do.... Thou makest us a byword among the heathen, a shaking of the head among the people. As for me, I have become an urban legend, a scary story parents tell their little girls to make them afraid of being alone. My confusion is continually before me, and the shame of my face hath covered me, for I cry out to You in the face of my enemies and You do not answer. They laugh, but I cry because of the voice of him that reproacheth and blasphemeth; by reason of the enemy and avenger. Still it hurts me to see You ridiculed, even as I am so totally abandoned.
 
The time for execution has come. There are no appeals to be made. The Governor will not call. The Board of Pardons has separated, its members sleep in their beds. Representatives of the jury are present. So is the father of the little girl. Anxiety overtakes him. The two men are deep in thought as the orderly wheels in the condemned.
 
All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant. I am innocent Lord and You know it. It is Yours to protect the innocent. Where are You!?! Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way; and still, as I am wheeled to my death, I delight in Your law. Though thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death, I forgive You Your trespasses, O Lord my God. In our weakness, we have become lost, You and I--You lost on Your way and I lost on mine. I forgive You. Bring me home! If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange God; Shall not God search this out? But You know my faith; You have my love.
 
But do thou for me, O GOD the Lord, for thy name's sake: because thy mercy is good, deliver thou me. Show me that I have not done wrong. Show me that I owed no mercy to him. For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me. I worry over my soul, that I have condemned this man in hate. I worry that he is innocent, and I have done it, the evil of murder. I am gone like the shadow when it declineth: I am tossed up and down as the locust. My knees are weak through fasting; and my flesh faileth of fatness. I can feel their eyes! They know, they know the truth! O God, for shame, I will never speak those words. Let him die! I became also a reproach unto them: when they looked upon me they shaked their heads. At first they shook their heads at him--now they shake their heads at me. They know. They can see it written by the dark hand of Satan on my soul. Let me out of here! I must get out! They can see my guilt!
 
As if seeing what was written on the father's face--
Your guilt is Yours alone, just as God's is His own, and mine is my own. No, they do not know your heart, but God has seen the darkness, for he knoweth the secrets of the heart.
 
In horror-- Help me, O LORD my God: O save me according to thy mercy: You know nothing of my heart, you unrepentant bastard. God has delivered you to Your punishment. That they may know that this is thy hand; that thou, LORD, hast done it.
 
Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter. I see now. I die today because God would not save me, but also because one man would not save me. You know that I am innocent, and still you'd see me dead? You don't believe I did it, do you? Don't you want the real killer to come to justice?
 
You are still the shameless beast who killed my daughter. Let them curse, but bless thou: when they arise, let them be ashamed; but let thy servant rejoice. I will dance on your grave. You will despair of your evil in hell, you son of a bitch. Let mine adversaries be clothed with shame, and let them cover themselves with their own confusion, as with a mantle.
 
The needle injects the poison into the drip. Soon death will come.
 
Come here, please. I have only a moment left....
 
What do you want?
 
Lean closer--this is for you alone.
 
All right, what?
 
Why do you do it? Are you so thirsty for blood, even if it is innocent blood--is that your justice? Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord? arise, cast us not off for ever.
 
Why, if you weren't....
 
I'm the only one who'll hear you, and soon it'll be over....
 
That man didn't consider justice when he did what he did to my little girl.... It may well have been you. It doesn't matter now. Yes, I want blood; and the law, justice, has seen fit that it be your blood that is spilled. Guilty or innocent, you will pay for that crime! God has brought it, not I. I am not to blame.... I have done nothing wrong...have I?
 
That's enough....
 
He died, in a world of prayer:
Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and forgettest our affliction and our oppression? I have seen the truth. I have faced my human accuser, one who condemned me. Bring me home, Lord, I will gladly embrace You. For our soul is bowed down to the dust: our belly cleaveth unto the earth. I am at the lowest point a man can know, but all I feel is hope.... Arise for our help, and redeem us for thy mercies' sake. Bring me home. AMEN.
 
 
A man who had lifted up his guilt to his victim, perhaps an innocent man, could not finish his prayer, the prayer of a still-innocent man--perhaps the prayer of a man already passed into eternity.
 
I will greatly praise the LORD with my mouth; yea, I will praise him among the multitude. For he shall stand at the right hand of the poor, to save him from those that condemn his soul. [1]
A THIRD-GENERATION COMMENTARY

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Kimberly Wachs

We have heard , O G-d, our fathers have told us the deeds You performed in their time, in days of old. I grew up hearing the stories of the miracles of the Lord. I know about His great powers and His ability to do good.

With Your hand You planted them, displacing nations; You brought misfortune on peoples, and drove them out. It was not by their sword that they took the land, their arm did not give them victory. But Your right hand, Your arm, and Your goodwill, for You favored them. You are my king, O G-d; decree victories for Jacob! G-d helped the Jewish people survive for centuries. We have always been a persecuted people but He helped us because we are His chosen people. There were times we couldn't fight but He came through for us. I know these stories. History tells me. It is the history I read in books. It seems so long ago.

Through You we gore our foes; by Your name we trample our adversaries; I do not trust in my bow; it is not my sword that gives me victory; You give us victory over our foes; You thwart those who hate us. In G-d we glory at all times, and praise Your name unceasingly. We fight because we are Jews; because we are defending our belief in You. That's why You help us. We have a deal; a covenant. We praise, respect, believe in Your glorious power. In return, all we ask is for protection from those who wish to harm us for defending You. This is the history from a very long time ago.

Yet You have rejected and disgraced us; You do not go with our armies. This is the modern history I know and live with. You rejected Your people when they were being sent to the gas chambers. You disgraced my family when they were forced to wear the ugly yellow star. Why couldn't You help the Polish army keep the Nazi tanks from rolling through my grandpa's small village? They smashed the beautiful kiddush cup he got from his father.

You make us retreat before our foe; our enemies plunder us at will. Why did You make my grandma, an 11 year old child, the subject of psychological torture? How could You allow the enemy to point a pistol at her head? She was only an 11 year old child.

You let them devour us like sheep; You disperse us among the nations. You scattered my family all over Eastern Europe to live like slaves. Six million systematically eliminated and You didn't do anything to stop it. Maybe You really don't have as much power as everyone seems to think. What if evil is stronger than good? That's a scary thought, but it would explain a lot of things.

You sell Your people for no fortune, You set no high price on them. You make us the butt of our neighbors, the scorn and derision of those around us. You make us a byword among the nations, a laughingstock among the peoples. Those yellow stars; the ugly yellow stars, consuming our identity. I saw the Nazi propaganda cartoons of what a Jew is. It's disgusting. How can people believe that it is true? I'm not vermin-infested. I'm not evil. I don't have horns like the devil. Did You do this or was this the acts of evil people? I think You can't control people's actions. You set up this Earth and everything in it, but it got out of control. You meant to help but You couldn't. If I'm wrong, then WHY did You destroy my family?

I am always aware of my disgrace; I am wholly covered with shame at the sound of taunting revilers, in the presence of the vengeful foe. I'm not disgraced and I'm not shamed but rather incredibly fearful of the enemy. Because of the evil that You did not stop, I became a third generation survivor, plagued with Nazi dreams. When all the other kids got to dream about monsters in the closet, not me -- I was haunted by the Gestapo. I still fear the foe because I was raised that way. A result of the evil the You could not stop.

All this has come upon us, yet we have not forgotten You, or been false to Your covenant. My grandma still has faith in G-d. I still have faith in G-d. I don't have answers or anything even close to an explanation but I believe that You can do good.

Our hearts have not gone astray, nor have our feet swerved from Your path, though You cast us, crushed, to where the sea monster is, and covered us over with deepest darkness. After the horror, You bestowed blessings. You let all four of my grandparents live. You let them escape. You let them know the joy of having children and grandchildren who dull the pain of the past with the promise of the future.

If we forgot the name of our G-d and spread forth our hands to a foreign god, G-d would surely search it out, for He knows the secrets of the heart. We should not spread forth our hands to a foreign god so we don't dishonor those who perished protecting our G-d. Honoring thy ancestors is as important as honoring thy G-d.

It is for Your sake that we are slain all day long, that we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. Because I am a Jew I deserve to be slaughtered? Is that the fate of a chosen people?

Rouse Yourself; why do You sleep, O Lord? Awaken, do not reject us forever! Why do You hide Your face, ignoring our affliction and distress? Help us G-d! How many times did the Jews in the gas chambers cry out to You? You let it continue for five years, ignoring the suffering of innocent people. Heed the commands of Your people when they desperately beg for Your help to solve situations so painful they can not get through without Your assistance.

We lie prostrate in the dust; our body clings to the ground. My grandma had an aunt. She dug a huge pit. She and others stood in front of the pit when it was done as Nazi soldiers sprayed them with machine gun fire. The bullets missed her. She fell anyway, pretending to be dead to salvage life. Her body lay prostrate in the dust. It clung to the ground. She survived. This is an example of Your great power.

Arise and help us, redeem us, as befits Your faithfulness. You have power. You are obviously great. All we ask is that You help us in our times of desperation, and never ignore us in our time of need. We have faith in You; have faith that we will make You proud, if You let us live.
 
RE-TEXTING
 
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Samuel Lampert
 
 
Psalm of an abandoned God.
 
I have heard, O mortals,
your ancestors have told Me
the deeds you performed in their time,
in days of old.
 
With your hand you sowed My seed,
displacing gods;
You brought misfortune on faiths,
and drove them out.
It was not by My right hand, My arm, and My Goodwill,
for I did not favor you,
but by your sword that you took the land,
your arm gave you victory.
You are My ruler,
decree victories for Adonai!
Through you I gore My foes;
by your name I trample My adversaries;
 
O Humankind; I do not trust in My bow;
It is not My sword that gives Me victory.
 
You give Me victory over My foes;
You thwart those who hate Me.
In Humans I glory at all times,
and praise your progeny unceasingly.
 
Yet you have rejected and disgraced Me;
You do not go with My teachings;
You make Me retreat before the atheists;
the unfaithful denigrate Me at will.
You let them desecrate Me like a criminal;
You diffuse My message throughout the world.
You sell your God for no fortune,
You set no high price on Me.
You make me the butt of your neighbors,
the scorn and derision of those around you.
You make Me the byword among nations,
a laughingstock among the peoples.
 
I am always aware of My disgrace;
I am wholly covered with shame
at the sound of taunting revilers,
in the presence of the vengeful foe.
 
All this has come upon Me,
yet I have not forgotten you,
or been false to your covenant.
My heart has not betrayed you,
nor has My hand deserted your need,
though you cast Me, crushed, to obscurity
and covered Me with deepest ignorance.
If I forgot you
and spread forth My hands to a foreign people,
you would surely search it out,
for you know My weaknesses.
It is your fault that I am ignored all day,
that I am regarded as inferior to science.
 
Rouse yourselves; why do you sleep, O chosen ones?
Awaken, do not reject Me forever!
Why do you hide your face,
ignoring My affliction and distress?
I lie prostrate in the dust;
My body clings to the ground.
Arise and help Me,
redeem Me, as benefits your faithfulness.
 
POEM OF PAIN
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James Grady
 
There is something about the death of a child that seems so wrong. If ever there were a time to protest the seeming injustice of the world.... When death comes to the faithful, it is no less wrenching, and when it comes to their children, perhaps it is more wrenching than most deaths. The faithful may feel betrayed by their Protector, calculating as He is--the faithless can blame only fate, blind and unexpected. In the following conversation, A doctor is speaking with the parents of a dying child. His voice is set against the margin, while the voice of the parents, united in their misery, is inset. Plain typeface is spoken aloud, while italics are spoken internally, mentally--this includes the bold italics, which are quotes of holy scripture, from the translation found in the King James Version of the Bible.
 
Mr. and Mrs. Johnson?
 
Yes?
 
I am Dr. Johnson. I'll be treating your son, Jacob.
 
How is he?
 
His situation is critical, but stabilizing. He is dying .
 
Will you help him doctor?
 
I'll do my best. There is nothing I can do.
 
Thank you doctor.... We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old. How thou didst drive out the heathen with thy hand, and plantedst them; how thou didst afflict the diseases, and cast them out. Dear Lord, save our child. Bring to us the mircacles of days past, when prophets healed the sick. Make this man your prophet of healing. Cast out the enemy, the disease, the plague, and plant health and happiness in its place
 
For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them: but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favor unto them. Lord, make me an instrument of Thy Divine Hand, that I may heal this child: Open Yourself up that You may heal this child.
 
Thou art my King, O God: thy will be done.
 
Command deliverances for Jacob , oh Lord. Do not let this child die before he has seen the promise of life. Will it not, not again! I have seen too many pass too early! You, the Divinty--Your "justice" frightens me, Fiend!
 
Through thee will we push down our enemies: through thy name will we tread them under that rise up against us. Whatever You send us, Oh Lord, we will faithfully accept.
 
For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me. It is your hand, now, God of "mercy," that must save the child. There is nothing more I can do. Now we wait.
 
But thou hast saved us from our enemies, and hast put them to shame that hated us. In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever. You have always been with us. Oh Lord, and we trust in Your goodness.
 
Selah.
 
 
Mr. and Mrs. Johnson? Please have a seat....
 
Why, What's going on? Thou hast cast off, and put us to shame; and goest not forth with our armies.
 
Your son had an advanced case of a previously undetected cancer growing on his liver....
 
Had? What do you mean had? Thou makest us to turn back from the enemy: and they which hate us spoil for themselves.
 
Jacob, your son, he fought hard....
 
Fought? What are you trying to say doctor? Thou hast given us like sheep appointed for meat; and hast scattered us among the heathen.
 
...until the end, he wrestled with it.
 
No! No! Not our son... our only son! Thou sellest thy people for nought, and dost not increase thy wealth by their price. He had so much to offer, so much...how much have You lost in him, Oh Mighty God, creator and destroyer of worlds?
 
He was... I'm sorry....
 
We have nothing in the world, now.... Thou makest us a reproach to our neighbors, a scorn and a derision to them that are round about us.
 
I'm so sorry...
 
There was nothing you could have done. Thou makest us a byword among the heathen, a shaking of the head among the people. Without our child, we are a shame on existence. Take us, too, Oh Lord, that we may not live with such pain.
 
Have the desk page me if there is anything I can do... My confusion is continually before me, and the shame of my face hath covered me, For the voice of him that reproacheth and blasphemeth; by reason of the enemy and avenger. Again you have abondoned me without weapon against my enemy. You could have saved him, Jacob, Your son.... You drop the blame, the guilt, on me. It is on me, You Vile Wretch.
 
Doctor? Doctor? Just a moment.... We want you to know that we don't blame you. We thank you for doing all you could to save our son. It is Another who deserves the blame....
 
Thank you...you don't know how I needed to hear that. Try to have courage, but no one will blame you if you can't. The death of a child--it is a blow that rings throughout creation. I feel every day the weight of so many dead children....
 
Thank you doctor. All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant. Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way; Though thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death. No one is to blame but God above. We have kept His Law, but it is He who has betrayed His covenant with us. He is a shameful God, who hides his eyes, so that He might escape blame. Feel it sharply this morning, God of Jacob. If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange God; Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart. You know the truth Lord, that we have always been faithful, and You owed us something. But You were not here to pay up. We curse You for it, and Your very Name shames us.
Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter. And even as You curse us to live on, we suffer death at Your hands at every moment. Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord? arise, cast us not off for ever. Be ashamed, our Lord. Be ashamed, because we believe in Thee still, though You give us no cause. Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and forgettest our affliction and our oppression? Be ashamed, our Lord. Be ashamed, because we believe in Thee still, though You give us no cause. For our soul is bowed down to the dust: our belly cleaveth unto the earth. Be ashamed, our Lord. Be ashamed, because we believe in Thee still, though You give us no cause. Arise for our help, and redeem us for thy mercies' sake. Give us cause, again, oh Lord, to believe in You, to trust in You, to keep Your faith. Redeem yourself before our holy eyes. Wash away Your shame in the waters of love. Return to Your covenant.
 

[1] These are the only verses from Psalm 109 set on the margin.
 

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