Turning Time--From Eid Mubarak to Shanah Tovah

Brief Comments on a Long Crisis

Tonight and tomorrow, the Muslim world through Eid al-Adha, the Festival of the Offering, is celebrating an event that will become salient for the Jewish community on Rosh Hashanah, almost a month from now.

That event is the readiness of our shared forebear Abraham to make an offering-up of his son at God's command, and his willingness to change direction on a moment’s notice – – again at God's command – – to refrain from killing his child, and instead to make an offering of a ram with horns that were caught in a nearby thicket.

For Muslims, the Festival is celebrated in part by sharing roasted lamb or mutton in memory of that ram.  The sharing extends to making sure that the poor receive the food.

One could interpret the whole teaching in these words:

"Do not kill your children; feed the poor!"

For Jews, the story comes with all its torment in the traditional Torah reading for the second day of Rosh Hashanah. It follows on the teaching of the first day, when Abraham sends his other son out into the wilderness.

Islam and Judaism traditionally disagree about which son was bound up on the mountaintop – – Ishmael or Isaac. As with many family stories, we can take these different versions of the past as hostile,

or as different threads in a sacred fabric woven of different sacred teachings.

In the one-story, we learn from a family broken. In the other story, we learn from the family never broken, always joyful. Both are part of human experience, and we need to learn from both instead of rejecting either one.

 You could say that for millennia, many human communities have faced the dilemma: Does God demand of us that we kill our children by going to war against some Other with a different story, or does God demand of us that we feed the hungry of all communities?

In the Torah’s teaching of the story, after God has sent Abraham up the mountain, when the Voice says not to harm the child, the Voice must call out twice for Abraham to pay attention and to change the future.

Today we face the dreadful danger of killing our children not only through war, but by slowly choking our Mother Earth herself, and all her life-forms, by global scorching. So perhaps this year we need to draw on another deeply valid teaching about Rosh Hashanah: Yom harat olam, today is the birthing of the world!

At the end of this letter, you will find a brief preface to the candle-lighting on the evenings of Rosh Hashanah --  or on any sacred occasion in which we seek to turn fire into a way to light up the path ahead of us.

Will we turn our ears, our hearts, to hearing that we need to change the future? To hear that pursuing "business as usual" – – and I do mean "business" – – will ruin us all? How many times must the Voice cry out, "Abraham… Abraham! – – ABRAHAM!" for us to hearken?

“Katrina! –--  Sandy! –--  Houston! – – Bangladesh! – – Drought and famine in central Africa! – –  Drought and famine in Syria!…"

What if the Voice had spoken into deaf ears, deaf years?

"Sleepers, awake!" cries out the sound of the ram's horn as we walk toward Rosh Hashanah.

Tradition teaches that at Sinai one horn of that same ram that saved our children blew Truth into the world, and that the other horn of that same ram will signal the world's readiness to bring the messianic days of peace and justice.

Time now, these days of Turning, Transformation, for Homo Sapiens to make the Great Turning that every life-form yearns for.


Between the Fires:

A Prayer for lighting Candles of Commitment


We are the generation that stands 

between the fires:

Behind us the flame and smoke

that rose from Auschwitz and from Hiroshima;

From the burning forests of the Amazon,

From the hottest years of human history

 that bring upon us

Melted ice fields, Flooded cities, Scorching droughts.

Before us the nightmare of a Flood of Fire,

The heat and smoke that could consume all Earth.

It is our task to make from fire not an all-consuming blaze,

Not fire and fury,

But the light in which we see each other fully.

All of us different, All of us bearing

One Spark.

We light these fires to see more clearly

That the Earth and all who live as part of it

Are not for burning.              

We light these fires to see more clearly

The rainbow in our many-colored faces.

Baruch attah YHWH --  Yahhh --  elohenu ruakh ha’olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvot vitzivanu l’hadlik ner shel yomtov, Yom Harat Olam.

Blessed are You, Interbreathing Spirit of the world, Source of all creation, Who calls us into holiness through making connections with each other, and Who calls on us to connect by kindling the lights of this festival, the Day of the Birthing of the World.

{Light candles of commitment and joy]


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