So I woke up with the word tolah on my mind and googled it.
- It’s a Vedic unit of measurement equal to +/- 11.6 grams or 3/8 of a troy ounce.
- It’s a family name.
- It’s a red grub-like worm used by makers of religious garments in biblical times to dye cloth . In particular it was used by the makers of various Jewish religious garments.
- The word appears several times in THE BIBLE and seems to be a nexus between the OLD and NEW TESTAMENTS.
How’d that get there? It came in a dream. This man and I sat at a table in a library talking about the difficulties I was having with my writing. I told him I was tired and afraid I’d never get it together, and that I felt out of ideas, and that I was despairing that my lazy bum, no goodnick first novel was never going to get out the door and that I was worried whether I would ever get my writing career moving.
He listened with a reassuring smile. Then we turned to my next project. I didn’t know I had a next project. He knew the story. He enveloped my hands in his and said, “Name the protagonist Tolah. He spelled it out several times slowly T-o-l-a-h like he was talking to a slow learner.
I woke up with a compulsion to google.
For the record, I have no conscious recollections of the word tolah, or of its various meanings and associations.
The biblical associations piqued my interest. The word “tolah” (as in worm) is used in several biblical passages–in particular “Psalm” 22:6, “But I am a worm and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people”
I looked up “Psalm 22.” Not to sound melodramatic but I could have written that poem this morning. It speaks directly to my current condition and state of mind. My wife and I have been struggling with the aftermath of having her career and health ravaged by the president of her board of directors. He was a workplace bully who assaulted her, emotionally tortured her and concocted a web of lies that resulted in turning the entire board of directors and all her colleagues against her.
There was nothing I could do to help. And because I was a stay-at-home dad, I couldn’t bridge the financial gap. Most of the time I feel alone, afraid, miserable, and beset from every conceivable angle by the troubles of the world.
We’ve struggled to keep our house and to pay our bills. We’ve struggled to provide for our kids. We’ve struggled to understand why this happened even though we’d done all the right things. We’ve searched in vain for a path through these difficulties that leads us to firmer ground.
To paraphrase the psalm, “But I am a worm,” 22:6 “I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent” 22:2 “For trouble is near; for there is none to help” 22:11 “My strength is dried up . . . and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.” 22:15
“But” there’s always a but, even though the narrator complains that God abandoned him, he begs, “be not thou far from me, O Lord, O my strength, haste thee to help me.” 22.19 And the text goes on to say those who seek God’s strength will not only endure they will flourish, “The meek shall eat and be satisfied” 22:26, to which the atheist in me says, bullshit.
So on the one hand, “Psalm 22” is a woe-is-me complaint about how God abandoned the narrator to his earthly troubles. On the other, apparently God is the only solution to the problem.
Likewise, many people regard “Psalm 22” which begins with the words “My God, my God, why hast though forsaken me?”as a foreshadowing of the moment of Jesus Christ’s death during which Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 say he cries the very same words just before dying.
In that moment, Jesus passes in pain and torment with doubt and disappointment on his lips and yet that supposedly saved humanity from perdition.
Fucking religion and its paradoxes!.
This why I jokingly call myself an Ivory Soap atheist, which is to say I’m 99 and 44/100ths sure there’s no God.
How does God work? Why didn’t he save Jesus? Why does he abandon “Psalm 22’s” narrator to despair? How can he countenance the evils done by the people who organize in his name? I do not understand how he allows all this suffering. I do not know why he won’t speak more plainly to us. That’s why I stopped going to church and why I’m a Zen Buddhist. There’s nothing to believe except what is really there.
Fucking religion. Just when I think I have it all figured out, last night’s dream comes along with an answer I don’t like.
There’s no reason why I should wake up this morning with the word T-o-l-a-h on my mind. I suppose one could argue having read various bits and pieces of THE BIBLE and having been to church many times in my life, my unconsciousness mind grabbed that word out of deep storage and gave me a mystery to solve to help me find strength in trying times.
But there’s always a “but.” It doesn’t feel that way. What if God came to me last night and said, in effect, “I know things suck. I know you’re mad at me but, trust me, everything is going to be all right.”