Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Who Shall Live?

Unetanah Tokef and Blue Hors Matiné: The well-known piyyut Unetanah Tokef, which we Jews recite on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, tells us that

As a shepherd herds his flock,
directing his sheep to pass under his staff,
so do you, LORD, pass, count,
and record the souls of all living,
and decree a limit to each person's days,
and inscribe their final judgment

On Rosh Hashanah it is inscribed,
and on Yom Kippur it is sealed -
How many shall pass away,
and how many shall be born

Who shall live and who shall die
Who in good time, and who by an untimely death
Who by water and who by fire
Who by sword and who by wild beast
Who by famine and who by thirst
Who by earthquake and who by plague
Who by strangulation and who by stoning
Who shall have rest and who wander
Who shall be at peace and who pursued
Who shall be serene and who tormented
Who shall become impoverished and who wealthy
Who shall be debased, and who exalted

Now, Unetanah Tokef does not cover horses. So Abq Jew wonders: Do all sentient beings pass under God's staff? Do animals - or perhaps, only certain animals - have souls? Everyone has an opinion, but God alone really knows.

Despite the certainty and uncertainty of not knowing, Abq Jew presents - first for your enjoyment, and then for your contemplation - this viral video of Blue Hors Matiné at the 2006 World Equestrian Games, with her rider Andreas Helgstrand.

Wikipedia tells us
At the 2006 World Equestrian Games, riding the mare Matiné, Helgstrand came in second in the Individual Freestyle and third in the Individual Special
Eurodressage's report of the tournament called him "the favourite of the crowd" and said he "seemed to have redefined piaffe and passage".
A video of this performance (to the hip-hop song "No Mo" by Red Astaire) has circulated widely on YouTube, being seen over 5 [now 19] million times.

Here is something you may have noticed:

Life is unfair.

Eurodressage (January 25, 2010) tells the tragic story:
The world famous dancing grey mare, Blue Hors Matine, was humanely put down today after a tragic accident in the field. A passer-by had noticed there was something wrong with the grey mare in the field and notified a staff member at Blue Hors. 
"There was no doubt about it that Matine had broken her left front leg at the knee," said the saddened Blue Hors manager Esben Møller. "The vet immediately diagnosed that there was no way possible to save her life." 
The career of Matine ... was that of a shooting star rising high and then unfortunately crashing down like meteorite. 
Though she was well known in Denmark as a young dressage horse, she made her international break through and fame at a very rapid speed. Within one year she premiered at Grand Prix level and won individual silver and bronze at the 2006 World Equestrian Games. 
And that is when her career virtually ended. 
The mare competed successfully at a few more World Cup qualifiers in the winter of 2006-2007 but she injured herself slipping off the trailer at the 2007 World Cup Finals in Las Vegas. 
As of then Matine continuously struggled with injuries and never returned to the show ring. 
In August 2009 Møller announced that Blue Hors had given up the fight to get her back to full health. They gave the mare a peaceful retirement as a broodmare in the field ....
Why get so worked up about a horse? Because, as Abq Jew noted back in 2012 (see They Shoot Horses, Don't They?) -
Among Abq Jew's dearly held beliefs is this:  That of all the perfectly designed creatures the Holy One, Blessed Be He, created, there are three whose design is even more than perfect: the greyhound; the horse; and the giraffe. 
The greyhound and the horse, of course, are perfectly and elegantly designed - to run.  That is what they do, speedily, gracefully, seemingly effortlessly.  And the giraffe?  Perfectly designed to show us all that God, at least occasionally, has a sense of humor.  But not right now.

Which brings us to the tragic story of Elisha ben Abuyah. Wikipedia tells us
Elisha ben Abuyah (Hebrew: אלישע בן אבויה‎‎) ... was a rabbi and Jewish religious authority born in Jerusalem sometime before 70 CE. 
After he adopted a worldview considered heretical by his fellow Tannaim and betrayed his people, the rabbis of the Talmud refrained from relating teachings in his name and referred to him as the "Other One" (אחר, Acher).
There is a famous midrash that tells how Acher "adopted a worldview considered heretical" -
Elisha and his contemporaries, great Rabbis, were walking in a field and saw a young lad climb a tree at his father's urging. 
The father wanted the eggs from a nest. So the boy shooed away the mother bird to take the eggs.  
(It should be noted that the Torah promises long life to only 2 commandments: honoring one's parents and shooing away the mother bird before taking her eggs).  
The boy falls and dies. 
Whereupon Elisha ben Abuyah cries out

At least - not in this world.

It sure makes Abq Jew wonder.

The Unetanah Tokek passage concludes -

But repentance, prayer and righteousness
avert the severity of the decree.

May it be so.

No comments: