Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Divine Reaction

עננו ה' עננו
A Call for a Divine Reaction

1. Answer us God, Answer us 2. On our day of fasting 3. For we are in great turmoil
1. Do not incline to our evil 2. Do not hide Your face from us 3. Do not ignore our pleas
1. Be close to our salvation 2. grant us kindness in consoling us 3. Before we call out, answer!

This little poem of three stanzas across and three down has a consistent rhyme and meter. It is a bit strange in that the nature of the prayer is a plea for salvation yet the author chose to formulate it in a poetic style.

The poem begins and ends with its leading word--anenu, answer us revealing the author's focus from which he never veers. To ask for an answer or rather a 'response' implies there is an initial call on the part of Israel. What else would God be answering?

In truth while we associate answering in a verbal manner, this poem refers to a physical response. We say to God that we have initiated an action of teshuva, our fasting which represents an active pursuit of God amidst our turmoil, we ask, almost expect from God a reaction--anenu!

The first line stays in the positive and ignores the ultimate root for our necessity to fast (almost as if to cut off the fourth parallel stanza). The second line goes to the double negative telling God not to incline towards our negative; not to hide from us, not to ignore our supplications. The final line returns to the positive asking God to save, console, Answer!

This prayer could only be recited while in the midst of fasting. There is a major difference between the prayer of an objective observer and a subjective sufferer (I learned this from Rabbi Carmy about the difference between Isaiah and Jeremiah).

When we are suffering and we act instead of remain passive the poet tells us that we are justified in calling out to God and even demanding a reaction on His side. We are not silent, we tell God, nor have we been passive. Our fast represents our actions of returning to God, introspection, ultimately of a movement towards our spirit and away from our physicality.

We turn to God in this state and only in this state and beseech--Anenu, answer, react, save us, עננו