To Be a Neighbor
I have never lived on a remote island or in the middle of a desolate tract of land. I have never lived a top a mountain all alone or on the banks of a seldom traveled river. I have lived in a bustling neighborhood in a metropolitan area. I have also lived in a relaxed neighbor in an historic small village known as a borough. All this explains my next comment. I have never lived without neighbors. And if John Donne’s poem is correct, neither have you.
“No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.”
Our word for the monotheistic deity praised in the mythological legends of the Abrahamic faiths for today is Elohei Tehillati. Elohei is another form of Elohim and Elohe which we have discussed previously and they all three still translate as “god”. Tehillati is a word which translates as “to sing”, “to praise”.
It is not a difficult thing to understand why they had a name for the deity they worshipped. It makes sense that one manner of worship would involve singing. Man has engaged in joyful, lyrical adoration of life since mankind first discovered the human voice. Many of the scriptures, the holy writings and mythologies which tell the stories of these faiths even encourage it: “Sing to the Lord a new song!”
Elohei Tehillati was the god of praise but this form of the deity has somehow gotten a bit lost in the living, I think. The mythologies of the Abrahamic faiths not only shifted from polytheism to monotheism, they also illustrated that worship was interactive, not only with the deity but with life itself.
Singing praises to this one god was not the whole story. To complete the interactive worship, one had to also spread praise to one’s neighbor. Pardon me for borrowing from Hamlet but …”Aye, there’s the rub.” I can sing praise all day long to God and respect in song someone else’s deity. My neighbor??? I have had some gloriously wonderful neighbors. I have also had some that I hoped would get transferred…soon…like yesterday. And now the mythologies are telling me to praise my neighbor?
Faith is a collaborative communication between the person and his/her object of worship. It always has been. In fact, regardless of the period of history, the culture, the location, the level of simplicity or complicated tenets and rubrics, to believe has always meant to work in partnership, to join forces, to share.
Do we really share our god or gods? Are we willing to allow that the god that grants us mercy gives the same to our less than desirable neighbors? Do I really share god of my heart with the heart of my enemy? Do I really see my enemy as my neighbor, an equal in the love of this one deity, a god of mercy, of praise, of life? Do I allow my faith and beliefs to be interactive with life?
If I do, then I must praise my neighbor. I have to find that silver lining of their soul instead of just seeing the dark cloud of their actions. I cannot save all my praise for my god. I must spread it around. I must live the songs I sing. Aye, there’s the rub in not being an island but a being, one of many, one of one god.