The word Shever has at least 13 meanings in Hebrew as well as in English. It can mean Crisis, Fracture, Fraction, Breaking, Brake, Rapture, Splinter, Failure, Collapse, Mishap, Mantissa, and Hernia. That is if we speak of modern Hebrew. There are a few more meanings in Biblical Hebrew. When the sons of Jacob went down to Egypt during a famine, it states that they went “Lishbor Shever”, meaning to buy provisions (wheat). But the most meaningful use of the word Shever is attached to a stool. “Mashber”. That is the name of the stool on which a pregnant woman sits while giving birth. It is basically the birthing stool. This is also the name of the most extrema and painful contractions that happen just before the birth of the child. These are the most dangerous moments, in which both the woman and the child are hovering between life and death. The time that death is concurred with the birth of a new life.
We can find political descriptions of crisis and disaster in the bible using the metaphor of the birthing stool. Malila Helner-Eshed writes in her article how Hezekiah the king is describing the coming disaster of Jerusalem’s destruction by the Assyrian army as he laments: “כֹּה אָמַר חִזְקִיָּהוּ יוֹם צָרָה וְתוֹכֵחָה וּנְאָצָה הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה, כִּי בָאוּ בָנִים עַד מַשְׁבֵּר וְכֹחַ אַיִן לְלֵדָה” (ישעיה לז ג). “This is what Hezekiah says: This day is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace, as when children come to the moment of birth on the birthing stool and there is no strength to deliver them” (Isaiah, 37,3). Rashi, the bible commentator interprets this verse stating: “the Mashber is the name of the stool on which women sit to give birth.”. Another commentator, David Kimchi, the Radak, comments:” Hezekiah compared the disaster to a woman whose contractions are strong, and she is ready to give birth, the son in her womb is about to be born. This is the time when her pain and anguish are the worst.
A time between life and death.
How extraordinary. A stool that is present at the height of anguish, pain and literally a breaking point of life or death takes the name of the experience. It is called a Breaking or a Crisis stool. This is the stool that received the new life. The crisis and breaking of water, and the birthing of a life, of new beginnings, of hope. Perhaps it is true, and we need to remember that Crisis and coming literally to a breaking point in any conflict is also the place where change happens. New ideas and even new orders of governing a society can be born.
The notion of growing and changing as a result of fracture and crisis is a core idea in Trauma therapy. I have even seen some grief and trauma workshops that are advertising “planting and growing in cracks”. As early as Carl Rogers, and the establishment of Humanistic Psychology, research focused on how humans work to be creative and reach their full potential. Rogers believed that the orientation of all people is “growth, autonomy, and freedom from control by external forces” Conversely, Rogers believed that the actualizing tendency acted as the motivating force for all behaviours. In the case of humans, we all want to express ourselves creatively and reach our full potential. We see this when flowers shoot up between cracks in concrete, when corn stalks grow between road grates, and when a tree grows inside of the stump of another tree. We also see this when people struggle to define who they are amidst being told who they should be. The threat to limit freedom of choice and freedom of creative outlets leads people to resist. The more people understand that their freedom of choice is curtailed it propels them to come out on mass to demonstrate and show resistance. At the brink of feeling powerless the need to assert the ability to grow drives people to resist and protest.
Every time I stop writing and come back to it, more changes occur in the world outside, and I lose my train of thought. A ray of sun broke through the storm clouds when President Herzog presented his compromise document. This is the closest we have come to a constitution in the 75 years of the existence of the state of Israel. The light dimmed a mere 17 minutes after the presentation, when the prime minister and his government rejected the compromise outright. A hefty document which took me over two hours to read, and I admit that I need to go back, in order to comprehend, took only 17 minutes to reject. The insult and the arrogance are inconceivable. We are at the abyss, “This day is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace” as I wrote above. The demonstrations against the darkness falling on us, the coming of the dictatorship, are increasing in number and spreading throughout the country. Will there be still a possibility to avert the crisis, to actually bring us to the MASHBER, the birthing stool, and give birth to a new life, to a democracy which will morph from the chaos?
Leonard Cohen sings, “There is a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”.