A Midrash of Psalm 44


A MIDRASH ON PSALM 44: 10-15
 

10But now, You desert and shame us.

You do not go out with our armies.

11You put us to flight from our enemies.

Those who hate us tear us to pieces at will.

12You hand us over like sheep to be devoured.

You cast us among the nations.

13You sell Your people for nothing.

You do not make a profit on their sale price.

14You make us an object of shame for our neighbors,

a thing of scorn and derision for those around us.

15You make an example of us to the nations,

an object of head-shaking among the peoples.

 

(Winter, 1944):

“You desert and shame us” — as they cut our beards and mass-rape our women.

“You do not go out with our armies” — with our resistance.

“You put us to flight from our enemies” — in mass exodus and transports.

“Those who hate us tear us to pieces at will” — using our skins for lampshades and our flesh for soap.

“You hand us over like sheep to be devoured” — in the gas chambers, crematoria, and gang burning-pits.

“You cast us among the nations” — as stateless and displaced persons.

“You sell Your people for nothing” — we are worth less than slaves, less than animals.

“You do not make a profit on their sale price” — our value is precisely calculated for work, starvation, and death.

“You make us an object of shame for our neighbors” — so that no one touches us, in the camps and even after liberation.

“A thing of scorn and derision for those around us” — they toss scraps of bread into the trains of our starving people; they make us defecate in our clothing.

“You make an example of us to the nations” — of degradation and dehumanization, a sign par excellence and a symbol of Jew-hatred.

“An object of head-shaking among the peoples” — in disbelief that something like this is happening to anyone, much less to us, Your chosen people.

 

To use this psalm and midrash liturgically on Yom Hashoah or at any other time, one person should read the psalm through, out loud, with the rage in which the latter part of the psalm is written. That person should then repeat these verses, in a lower tone drifting into an undertone. Another person or persons should, then, begin reading the midrash as an overtone. When the reading of the midrash is finished, one may conclude with the final verse of the psalm, again read in the appropriate tone of protest.

 

 

[1] This midrash appears as part of my multivocal commentary to Psalm 44 in Facing the Abusing God: A Theology of Protest (Louisville, KY, Westminster / John Knox: 1993) 99-100.