And what is the battle field's life about? The battle field is a place of clear enemies, black and white, us and them. You have to be ruthless, vigilant, violent on the battlefield.
Either your neighbors are your friends and you love them or your neighbors are your enemies and you hate them/fear them/kill them. But here in Israel, our neighbors are both. We live in the grey. Were not afforded the luxury of black and whites.
I see the situation in Israel as a great tragedy and conundrum. But also, what I hear in this parsha, is that there is reason, divine reason, for this historical constellation. Lest life of field increase upon us. It can also be a gift. We are given a mighty challenge. To live in a land where enemy and neighbor are enmeshed. The level of moral discernment that goes on here daily is very high. Super human almost in its demands. And this too is God's plan.
“Lest Life of Field Increase”
Lest life of field increase upon you
Lest you become a claw
Lest war-fare unfair
Come to define you
Lest callousness - your law
Lest ‘undeserved’ be hailed your title
Lest ‘barbarous’ - your daily bread
I will place your foe
- full-faced - beside you
A neighbor live
not nameless dead
And you will grapple
with the justice
How to treat
When just next door
She sleeps so peaceful
in kitchen sinks
No life of field
So striped and rabid
No black and white
No rigid creed
but shared street lights
with equal rights and liberties
How you will wrangle with the knowledge
That enemy is more than beast
More than faceless; more than target
Less of Other, More of Thee
And in this challenge will be your greatness
And in this challenge will be My Name
That you a people
Have thus been tested
And proved humane
Addendum - An Illustration:
I once lived in Yaffo – 30% Arab Muslim, 30% Arab Christian, 30% Jewish, 10% goat. I felt like I made peace treaties every day at the grocery, on the streets.
There are so many stories I could tell about life in Yaffo. I could tell what it was like to go to Abu Asa’s nargila joint – where all the Arab men in the neighborhood gathered to play sheshbesh and smoke four foot tall nargila water pipes with strawberry flavored tobacco. I would walk in with my computer to write some afternoons. I must have been the only woman to ever step foot in the place since its establishment 30 years before. - Or I could tell you about the symphony of sound that I heard every sunset as I went out to pray on the waterside, harmonizing my prayers with the muazin call to prayer and the church bells and the crash of the waves – all the things which call us to pray. Or I could tell you about peering into the eyes of women who were wholly covered in black cloaks, headdress, black gloves. How I would be too nervous to say shalom. Were they too?
But I will tell you the story of Muhammed – the son of my Muslim neighbor, Adula. He must have been about 30. He was mentally handicapped and spent a lot of his time just wandering around the streets. One night I went walking down Kedem Street. He started escorting me. Kedem was lined with fish restaurants that weekly got converted in to wedding halls for these massive Arab weddings. Men in one fish restaurant. Women in the next restaurant down the streets. Muhammed escorted me down to the women's fish restaurant. With great hutzpah and great joy I walked in and found that I knew the people there – my neighbors. Adula even! Luckily, everyone there was equally excited that I had come. They took me immediately to dance with the bride. It was extraordinary, magical, inspiring. I came out 2 hours later – late night now. I was exhilarated, but also a bit nervous to walk the late night walk. But then there was Muhamed. Waiting for me. These 2 hours. He didn't say I word. I didn’t say a word. We just walked home together. A breathtaking evening, and yet, there was a part of me that was nervous. Scared of my neighbor. Not quite sure if I could really believe he was a friend. I was living the conundrum. Striving to be loving, open, and yet safe, realistic.
As I wrote above, its very easy to live reality in a place of either/or, black and white. Either your neighbors are your friends and you love them or your neighbors are your enemies and you hate them/fear them/kill them. Here, our neighbors are both. We live in the grey. No 'life of the field' upon us.