בת בבל השדודה אשרי שישלם לך את גמולך שגמלת לנו
אשרי שיאחז ונפץ את עולליך אל הסלע
I have reached a nadir moment I would have hoped never to reach. I finally feel I can understand some element of Tehillim 137:8-9, “Looted daughter of Bavel, praised is the one who will pay you your just desserts, as you did to us. Praised is the one who will grab and smash your infants against the stone.”
What a horrible wish!
I have taught this line in various adult contexts over the years, and, invariably, it has inspired in me, as well as in my classes, appropriate revulsion. How could anyone ever hope for such a thing, for the death of children, for the violent death of children?! What in the world is this doing in Tanach?
And every time, I have tried to provide context for the class:
I explain that this is supposed to be Dovid haMelech’s nevuah, his prophecy.
He sees his son succeed in constructing a Beis haMikdash, a home for Gd.
He sees succeeding generations bring korbanot and celebrate together and build a thriving society.
Then he witnesses the decline of that society, his realm split in two, worship of Baal and Asherah, intramural violence, false prophets, the deterioriaton and decay of everything he loved.
He sees prophets like Eliyahu and Elisha and Yeshayah and Yirmiyah cry out to no avail.
His hopes swell with the Yoshiyahus and Chizkiyahs, and sink with the Achavs and Menashehs.
And, painfully, he watches helplessly as the Assyrians invade and exile the northern tribes, as the Egyptian Paroh Nechoh invades and brutally kills Yoshiyahu, and then as the Babylonians conduct their multiple invasions and sweep off the remaining population.
To watch your life’s work and the nation you love demolished and reduced to ash, to witness the bloody death of thousands of your descendants, all while you – a warrior and king – are forced to sit on your hands, helpless… yes, I believe that would be sufficient to goad King David to this sanguinary extreme.
And, still, I never really understood it. I can’t say I really understand it now. But I had a taste of it watching the ugly Lebanese celebration of Samir Kuntar, who smashed a four-year old girl’s head in against a rock. Yes, I know the facile “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” sentiment. But to glorify that brutality? To honor one who would do that? No. Absolutely not.
And I found myself, as I watched that scene, repeating Dovid haMelech’s words.
I wish they would not know the return of a murderer who has been coddled and offered a healthy diet, conjugal visits, university courses and a warm bed for all of these years. I wish, instead, that they would know what it means to be one of his victims.
Jack's Shack here and here.
Shira bat Sarah here.
Soccer Dad's roundup here.