I apologize for disappearing for a week, but the Republican convention scared me blogless, which I think was the general idea. I didn’t watch the actual convention on TV, but I saw most of the stellar footage on Comedy Central’s very funny “Daily Show.” I had to scrape my jaw off the floor after three minutes of Zell Miller’s tirade (plus a bonus minute of him challenging reporter Chris Matthews to a duel for questioning him).
Here’s the part I?m having trouble understanding: why anyone would be even the tiniest bit moved by Miller?s vicious expression of blood-in-your-teeth rage at the Democrats for daring to run for office against “our commander-in-chief?” He seems mad–not just angry but seriously unbalanced.
I was thinking of this on Saturday, when I led Torah study at the congregation to which I belong. The portion for that week was \Ki Tavo\ (Deuteronomy 26.1-29.8), which describes a series of curses to befall those who turn away from the source of life, and the blessings to come from alignment with divine purpose. The curses are a literary tour-de-force, as if the writers had lanced the dark side of imagination, pouring the unthinkable from a fiery, buried place directly onto the page. Here’s a sample of just two of the milder verses, 29:67-68:
\In the morning you shall say, “If only it were evening!” and in the evening you shall say, “If only it were morning!”–because of what your heart shall dread and your eyes shall see. The Lord will send you back to Egypt in galleys, by a route which I told you you should not see again. There you shall offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but none will buy.\
During Torah study, I asked if people saw such curses–threats of terrible punishment–as effective in prodding us to strive for goodness in our lives. We’re a liberal bunch, so it’s unsurprising that everyone said no. These are the things that befall you, they told me, when you forget yourself, forget your connection with others, your higher purpose: in effect, the curses are descriptions of unbalanced mental and spiritual states that may be cured by remembering.
But Zell Miller and the other hellfire speakers at the Republican convention evidently adore curses, as they resort to them so frequently and with so much relish. I think this will decide the contest: are there more voters who take pleasure in cursing and punishing their opponents, who believe in the path of the curse? Or more who bless and remember the essential common spark in all of us, even those who are badly out of balance? A Hasidic teaching on the curses is that reading them aloud allows them to manifest in the verbal realm (the blogosphere?), rather than in real life. I can only hope, as Moses says at the end of \Ki Tavo\, that even the Zell Millers will be given “a mind to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.”