Sunday, September 9, 2012

A desperate call for urgent help -- Ps. 70

All day yesterday I was mulling what to do with Psalm 70 (for Robert's weekly PsalmChallenge).
I was getting no inspiration; I couldn't find a fitting photo (and still can't).
What to do with yet another psalm of calls for help and revenge?
The answer came to me in a dramatic way:
I left the house for my usual evening walk; the minute I stepped onto the street a small dog came yapping and running toward me, got behind me and bit me on the lower leg.

I spun around and yelled "Stop it!", hoping it would make the dog's owners, a young couple and their baby, pay attention and come to my rescue.
They took their sweet time coming over and calling their dog, thinking he was just barking at me.
I looked at the two red scratch marks from its fangs and at its saliva on my skin and felt the pain inside and shouted to the people that it was indeed a bite.

"Oh, slicha, slicha" they said.
I retorted, "I don't want 'Sorry, sorry,' I just want not to be bitten when I walk on my own street! Train your dog! Get a leash! Take some responsibility!"
And I added that my step-daughter recently spent months in a wheelchair after a dog bit her on two different days in the stairwell of her apartment.
Back home, cleaning my wound (which fortunately was not deep or bleeding), I felt the anger more than the physical pain.
I had shouted, I had been attacked, help was slow in coming--all such rare things in my current life--and the adrenaline was pumping.
I heard myself planning: "Next time I'll go out walking with a strong walking stick and if that damn dog comes at me again I'll break its teeth, I'll smash its head, I'll . . . ."
Then it occurred to me: I was sounding like the biblical psalmists!
I could so identify with them, suddenly.
I could feel their righteous indignation!

And my murmured threats were nothing worse than an example of the Hebrew hyperbole so common in the Bible, the exaggeration for effect often used in Semitic languages.
Then I wondered just how many folks in the Western world have ever been physically and unjustly attacked by man or beast, how many know the constant fear of an existential threat to them and their whole country?

The people who feel a need to "clean up" and tone down many of the Psalms, taking the "violent" and "terrible" verses out of some Psalms before inclusion in their prayer books--are they not missing the point and power of the Psalms?

Well, I was taught a lot yesterday; but next weekend I might think twice before praying for some PsalmChallenge inspiration.
1. For the leader. Of David. Lehazkir.

2. Hasten, O God, to save me; O LORD, to aid me.
3. May those who seek my life be disgraced and abashed; may those who wish me harm fall back in shame.
4. May those who say “Aha! Aha!’’ over me retreat in disgrace.
5. May all who seek You be glad and rejoice in You; may those who are eager for Your deliverance always say, “God be exalted!”
6. As for me, I am lowly and needy; O God, hasten to me. You are my aid and my rescuer; O LORD, do not hold back.
Translation by Rabbi Benjamin J. Segal.
For a modern and initially shocking reworking of Psalm 70 by Rabbi Justin David, do see the new American book Psalms in Ordinary Voices.


Spiderdama said...

Thanks for the reminder.. We live in a flattering portrait and everything is so wonderful and nice.. we never have anything to fear for ourselves or our country, so we forget God.. sad

I hope you do not get more problems with dog bite. It should be mandatory to have a dog link?

God bless you Dina!

Anonymous said...

i'm glad your wound was not deep and serious. i can understand your anger and i am in awe of your action. hope you are ok. shalom

Dina said...

Spiderdama, may you always live in peace and in a secure feeling. (despite the crazy killing in Norway recently).
Yes, the law calls for dogs to be walked on a leash. I have never seen a dog on a leash in my village.

Anonymous, thank you. Which Anonymous are you?

Mary Gerdt said...

Another painful human lesson. So true! Thanks! Heal well and keep an eye on that. It was not the dog bite, it was the ignorance and indifference of the owners. Wow. Have a great day.mary

PerthDailyPhoto said...

It's always a shock when something like this happens so viciously out of the blue, it gives you such a fright and the adrenaline pumps and it sounds like the owners were a bit indifferent..but it certainly helped you with your direction for today's post Dina..

Petrea Burchard said...

I agree with Mary, the owner is responsible, not the dog. I'm glad you weren't seriously hurt.

VP said...

I am very sorry for you, take care!
Too many idiots with dogs even here and most of them can't handle the beasts. Sorry, they definitely are beasts and sometimes quite dangerous ones.

Sara said...

Shalom Dina, thank you for the link to Rabbi Justin David's translation...that pretty much says it all in today's language.

I am glad the wounds were not serious. You certainly did receive a personalized bit of instruction on what the psalmist was saying!

I agree with you about the 'cleaning up' that some practice...

crystal said...

So upsetting. I'm glad your bite was not too serious. Take care of it. That kind of thing happens to me every so often too and I get angry too. I think anger is the mentally healthy response to unfairness and cruelty. I don't think feeling anger is good or bad, but what we do with it that is.

NixBlog said...

A very upsetting encounter, Dina. At least here in Australia we don't have rabies to worry about, not so in the old world!
I agree with you about dog owners being more responsible.

Anonymous said...

Glad that you are fine. Over here there are still many living on the streets, yet mostly way too afraid of humans, to come near.

Thank you for this thoughtful 'word-picture', reminding me of the seriousness of the Psalms very much.

Way back I owned my first pocket money walking dogs. Please have a good new week ahead.

luluberoo said...

I am a runner/biker in Michigan, and have been bitten twice by unleashed dogs while their owners sprang to their (not my) defense. I really understand your anger.

Very clever Psalm challenge also.