Sunday, July 24, 2005

Two Quotes for the Fast of the Fourth Month


Crat noticed the old man's English had improved. Perhaps it was the passion of sudden memory. Or maybe he was letting down a mask.

"Oh, we and our allies were arrogant before the war. Mea culpa, we admit that now. And history shows the arrogant must always fall.

But then, to fall can be a gift, no? What is diaspora, after all, except an opportunity, a second chance for a people to learn, to grow out of shallow self-involvement and become righteous, deep, and strong?"

Schultheiss looked at Crat. "Pain is how a people are tempered, prepared for greatness. Don't you think so, fils? That wisdom comes through suffering?"


-- Earth, by David Brin


Our month Tammuz is named after the ancient Mesopotamian god Tammuz or Dumuzi, one of Ishtar's many husbands. The story goes that Tammuz died and went down to the Underworld. He was a fertility figure of some kind, and that's generally what happens to those — see Persephone in Greece. Anyway, Ishtar, who is one bad-ass mofo of a warrior goddess, decides to storm the Underworld and force the Queen of the Underworld, Ereshkigal, to give her back her husband. Ishtar arrives at the gate of the Underworld and says:
"Gatekeeper, ho, open thy gate!
Open thy gate that I may enter!
If thou openest not the gate to let me enter,
I will break the door, I will wrench the lock;
I will smash the door-posts, I will force the doors;
I will bring up the dead to eat the living
And the dead will outnumber the living."

The great gods of Mesopotamia — Ishtar, Dumuzi, Ereshkigal and all the rest — are forgotten. Nothing is left of them but fragmentary myths engraved on broken clay tablets. But we survive. We survived the worshippers of Ishtar; the followers of Antiochus and of Caligula; the heirs of Constantine and Richard; the Almohads and the Cossacks; the devotees of Hitler and Stalin. We will survive this. That is what it means to be a stiff-necked people — to carry on, to stick with it, to mourn our dead and celebrate our living, to keep our eyes on the ultimate goal, and to know that no matter what comes, gam zeh ya‘avor. This too shall pass.

6 Comments:

Blogger Zoe Strickman said...

Dude, I am loving your site! You have such a balance between yiddishkeit and history. I love the yiddish additions. I hope you don't mind me asking you this, but would you be willing to put a link to my site on yours? My site is seriously lacking in Jewish readership and I could use the increased traffic (and more importantly, the feedback) on topics that I am writing about on the blog, and I don't know how to attract more Jewish readers. I'd appreciate any suggestions you have, and I've enjoyed reading your site since you've come onto the blog world in May. -Zoe

7/24/2005 11:50 AM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

and to know that no matter what comes, gam zeh ya‘avor. This too shall pass.

I sure hope so.

Check out my piece on י"ז בתמוז (AKA צום הרביעי) on my blog.

7/24/2005 4:35 PM  
Blogger bleemy's blemishes said...

Cool blog!!

BB

7/25/2005 11:54 AM  
Blogger bleemy's blemishes said...

Cool blog!!

BB

7/25/2005 11:54 AM  
Blogger bleemy's blemishes said...

Cool blog!!

BB

7/25/2005 11:54 AM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Thanks, BB!

But is it so cool that you had to say it three times? ;-)
If it was an accident, mind if i delete two of them?

7/25/2005 12:17 PM  

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