Posted on September 16th, 2012 | Filed under Challenges, Community, Featured, Interfaith, News, Social Issues, Uncategorized
Tagged with Creation, fear, global issues, Hope, Innocene of Muslims, Judaism, Rosh Hashanah
The disturbing recent news about the bloody protests in the Arab world incited by a video defaming the Prophet Muhammad remind me of a story associated with Rosh Hashanah, which begins on Sunday at sundown.
When Rosh Hashanah begins, the Jewish calendar will enter the year 5773. According to the tradition, exactly 5773 years ago, the creation of the world began with God’s words, “Let there be light,” and resulted in a world of staggering beauty and goodness--"And God saw all that She had made, and found it very good."
The rabbis taught that the light created with those first words, "Let there be light," was unlike the light associated with the sun, moon and stars, which were created on the fourth day. The first light made it possible to see from one end of the world to the other and God, afraid that evil people might use this light for destructive purposes, hid the light away, reserving it for the use of righteous people in the world to come.
I never had a very good idea of what kind of misuse of the primal light God feared, but now I do. The internet and global communications make it possible to see from one end of the world to another, so that a film made in California can be seen in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and Iran. And in the hands of those who want to cause harm, like the filmmaker responsible for Innocence of Muslims, it is terribly dangerous.
In Philadelphia, back on the other side of the world, this same light brings me the news and stirs up several strong reactions. I'm horrified by the violence, saddened by the pain of my Muslim brothers and sisters who see their religion slandered, frightened by the far-reaching destructive power that can be wielded by a small group of people using the power of technology and my inability to do anything about it.
It is so tempting to cut myself off from this light that makes me aware of the suffering of others a world away. I have learned from the teachings of Joanna Macy and my teacher Rabbi Yael Levy, however, that fully facing and accepting the world's brokenness and our personal limitations are the first step in moving ahead.
At the very least it can relieve us of the crushing burden that results from feeling we must do it all--that I can prevent people from spewing hate like Innocence of Muslims, or relieve the suffering of millions and millions of Muslims. Recognizing our personal limitations may even lead us to create and nurture the kinds of human relationships and spiritual practices that will enable us to address the problems on a global scale we all face.
On Rosh Hashanah, when I participate in the tradition of fully prostrating myself as part of the great aleinu, I will do so with the intention of embodying my submission to the reality of my inability to control so much of what goes on in the world, and as I hear the one hundred shofar blasts, I will pray that they help me to stay fully awake and present to the world, its pain no less than its beauty.
Image by AS990 (Own Work / Trabajo Propio), [GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.
Rabbi Michael Ramberg graduated from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College this June. Much to his surprise, as the son of intermarried (but mainly secular) parents active in the Civil Rights movement, Michael has found in the rabbinate his own way to carry on his parents’ important legacy. For him the most compelling venue in which to pursue this work of repairing the world is through interfaith coalitions, not only because Jews need partners in order to bring about real changes, but also because interfaith relationships are so nourishing for him. Michael’s focus is standing up for the rights of immigrants, which he does primarily as a volunteer with the New Sanctuary Movement and with his synagogue, Mishkan Shalom, in Philadelphia, PA. In addition to his rabbinic role as community organizer and activist, Michael relishes his responsibilities working with people to sanctify life transitions. In his Jewish practice Michael is invigorated both by reconstructing the Jewish tradition to fit the evolving needs of people today and by immersing himself in prayer and the study of sacred texts. Michael’s partner just completed her PhD in Education and they have committed to equally sharing the care of their two year old daughter. Michael sometimes thinks that the profound love his daughter has inspired in him gives him at least a glimmer of understanding of the love the divine has for humanity.