Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Things that cannot be spoken

Paul says that the gift is unspeakable - but there is this collection of texts that purports to hold the mystery in its silence. Between the cola is the message. So we must learn to listen to the space between the stichoi. The canon is a frame embracing the not-written.

Rachel has a re-post on "the ritual to be performed if a husband suspects his wife of adultery." I find it difficult to even allow that phrase on my blog.

She develops as tradition does the identification of adultery with idolatry. This has other resonances that may or may not be problematic in the context of equality and mutual balance between partners. The resonances speak to me of who our bodies ultimately belong to. Does the jealous husband necessarily consider his wife's body to belong to him or is the disturbance a deeper one that he cannot articulate? One that is not about the negative of ownership. Sexuality has so many distortions, it seems impossible to define what is healthy except to say - not this.

One of the great singing teachers in the world would say to me nothing about what my voice should sound like. She would say - "Bob, that is not your voice. Whatever you think you're doing - stop." She is not completely an apophatic singing teacher. Then she would say - "Come over here and lift the piano." As I was engaging to lift - she would say - "now sing". And at the sound that emerged she would say: "There it is - that's your voice."

Perhaps the ritual is like lifting the piano, a sufficient distraction that there is the possibility for seeing a better response. Both the New Testament and the Old attempt some non-apophatic teaching on sex: the Old with the Song of Solomon, and the New with Paul's instruction on sexuality in 1 Corinthians 6 and 7 - "the body is for the Lord and the Lord for the body".

In the Torah, the emphasis on the building of the tabernacle speaks to me of an intimacy which the Lord desires of each and all. This is impossible if we are in a state of self-seeking, protection or aggrandizement. In the tent of our bodies, it is impossible in an unequal relationship - humanly speaking. But things that cannot be spoken, I cannot write either. Nonetheless, what cannot be yet can be heard in the gaps. The voice that is not-voice is an argument from silence. If the dust of the tabernacle were to speak to the human, he and she would not need anything but such silence.


Paul Oakley said...

Perhaps the ritual is like lifting the piano, a sufficient distraction that there is the possibility for seeing a better response.

I like that, Bob. It feels quite anachronistic, but I like it.

rbarenblat said...

The canon is a frame embracing the not-written.

What a beautiful formulation. It reminds me of the midrashic notion that the Torah is written in black fire on white fire. The black fire are the letters on the scroll, an the white fire is the background on which the letters float, which is also understood to be the space in which our own voices and contributions and interpretations arise. The whole Torah, seen fully, always encompasses both the words on the parchment and what we create with and around and through those words.

Thanks for joining me in my wrestle with this challenging Torah text.