I read this article by Alice Gregory in the September 18 issue of the New Yorker and was blown away. I could relate to every word and I cried a lot. I still tear up when I read the end of the article.
What really amazes me about my reaction is that the article is not about ritual abuse. It is about people who cause a death by accident and who live with guilt and sorrow for the rest of their lives. Like us, they feel isolated and misunderstood and are told, “It wasn’t your fault.” “It was just an accident.” “That’s the past now, isn’t it time you got over it?” None of which is helpful, as we know.
People who killed somebody by accident seldom meet or read about others like them, so they don’t have a chance to learn that their emotions are normal, are shared by others. There is no opportunity to form a community or to help others. It is a heavy and lonely existence.
I came close to killing a child when I was 22 or 23. I was driving slowly up a side street and a boy riding a bike hit the passenger side of my car. He flew up and landed on my hood. Our eyes locked for what seemed like an eternity. I knew how close he had come to being run over: I am not sure he understood the danger he had been in. That long moment ended when his mother started screaming at him from a second story window. He got off the hood, picked up his bike, and slowly went into the house. Shakily, I went on my way.
Three feet, thirty seconds, and this article could be about me.
Alice Gregory has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, Harper’s, and The New York Review of Books. She has a website at http://www.alice-gregory.com/ with many of her articles, both in print and on podcasts. The entire text of “Accidental Killers” is at https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/09/18/the-sorrow-and-the-shame-of-the-accidental-killer Browse through her other articles: many are fascinating.
For those of you who are not familiar with the New Yorker, it publishes serious articles, fiction, reviews … and cartoons. My parents subscribed to it, and I have, too, for most of my life. Its website is https://www.newyorker.com/
Below is the conclusion of “Accidental Killers.”
In the Book of Numbers, God instructs Moses to tell the Israelites that they are to designate six cities of refuge “so that anyone who kills someone inadvertently may flee there.” The accidental murderer will be protected from the wrath of the “blood avenger,” a family member of the deceased. The rules are spelled out in detail: when a person enters one of these cities, a tribunal determines whether he or she is eligible for sanctuary; those who killed with weapons, for example, cannot remain there. According to Talmudic commentary, assembled in the twelfth century, the roads leading to the cities of refuge were to be well marked, free of obstacles, and wider than regular roads, so that those who have killed another unwittingly could proceed there without delay.
When Maryann Gray [who hit a child who ran in front of her car], a secular Jew who grew up celebrating Easter and Christmas and reserving Scarsdale tennis courts on the High Holidays, first learned of the concept of cities of refuge, she was overcome with gratitude. “The Torah was talking about me,” she remembers thinking. Gray was struck by the specificity of its prescriptions, which suggested that lives like hers were once contemplated with sophistication by the highest authorities. She became obsessed with the concept, researching it at the library of Hebrew Union College, a seminary with a campus in Los Angeles, talking about it with rabbis, and reading their works.
There is “no statute of limitations on self-imposed pain,” David Wolpe, the senior rabbi of Sinai Temple, in Los Angeles, told me. Gray spoke to Wolpe at the start of her inquiry into the cities of refuge; he explained that their purpose was to allow individuals to share some of their pain with a community. “Maimonides, the great medieval Jewish philosopher, says that in the collective grief the individual’s grief is assuaged,” Wolpe wrote to me in an e-mail. When “people realize that loss is part of the iron law of life, it helps them reconcile themselves to their own situation.” Most of us will not be forced to assimilate a catastrophic accident into the story of our lives, but rituals and refuge seem so obviously necessary that a world without them looks inhumane.
There is no extra-Biblical evidence that cities of refuge ever existed. But Gray does not want to believe that they were merely a figment of an antique but ethically progressive imagination. “If I had been exiled to a city of refuge, I might not have needed exile from myself,” she once wrote. She was moved by the idea that, in such cities, a person like her could participate fully in society without shame. “I love that there was a way of recognizing the true devastation that’s been wrought, the harm that’s been done, without condemning the individual,” she said. “That’s what I’m looking for—to live in the world with acceptance and with opportunity, but also with the acknowledgment that in running over this child something terrible happened and it deserves attention.”
I’m moving the list of holidays to the end of my posts, because I feel it gets too much emphasis if it is at the beginning. If I received complaints, I’ll reconsider.
2/13 Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras
2/14 Ash Wednesday/Beginning of Lent
2/15 Partial solar eclipse.
2/14 Valentine’s Day
2/25 Walpurgis Day
3/1 Full Moon
3/20 Spring Equinox
3/24 Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan
3/25 Palm Sunday
3/30 Good Friday/Death of Jesus Christ
3/31 Full Moon (Blue Moon)
4/1 Easter Sunday
4/1 April Fool’s Day
4/8 Day of the Masters
4/10 Full Moon
4/16 – 4/23 Grand Climax/Da Meur/ (Preparation for sacrifice in some Satanic sects}
4/30 Walpurgisnacht/May Eve
Dates important to Neo-Nazi groups
1/30 Hitler named Chancellor of Germany
4/20 Hitler’s birthday (Note: Hitler was born on Easter, so Nazis celebrate his actual birthday, 4/20, and Easter of the current year. His alternate birthday is 4/1 this year.)
4/30 Anniversary of Hitler’s death
(Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lamas, Halloween, solstices, equinoxes, and full moons.)