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Everyone Counts, Every Action Makes a Difference

Jan4

by: Rabbi Natan Margalit on January 4th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

What can we learn from ancient Jewish texts about the current distressing and frightful geo-political situation so filled with war, refugees, mass shootings and terrorist attacks?

I think a lot, and it is often surprising where insight can be found. For example, I was recently reminded that Maimonides, the great medieval rabbi and philosopher, stated the principle that all the verses of the Torah are holy, no exceptions. (1)

Timna (2001) oil on canvas/wood (59 X 50) by Janet Shafner (http://janetshafner.com)

Maimonides chooses Genesis 36:12 as one of his examples of a lowly, ignored line of the Torah. It says, “Timna was a concubine of Esau’s son Elifaz…” Now, Maimonides was a very smart guy and even though it’s buried in a long, boring, list of “so and so begat so and so, who begat so and so, etc, etc.,” this verse is actually pretty interesting; so interesting that the Talmud, several centuries after the Torah, asked who this Timna was — and then they told a story about her.

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 99b) says that Timna was actually a princess (they astutely note that there is another reference to Timna in a nearby list of princes and princesses). Well, then, they ask, how did this princess wind up being a lowly concubine?!

Timna, the rabbis said, was indeed a princess, but she decided that she wanted to join with the people of Abraham. Perhaps she was impressed with the new idea of One God. We don’t know. But, for some reason, the family of Abraham rejected her. Having given up her royal life she looked around for someone, anyone, related to Abraham’s family who would take her in. Esau’s son was as close as she got and then only as a concubine, not even a regular wife.

We can imagine the pain and shame and anger that she might have had about this whole situation. Then we read the second half of the verse: “Timna was a concubine of Esau’s son Elifaz, and she gave birth to Amalek.” In Jewish lore Amalek becomes a notorious tribe, the archetypical enemy, a symbol of pure evil and senseless hatred. Amalek is known to attack the children of Israel at their most vulnerable and weakest points. Amalek simply wants to destroy, ruin and cause pain. Amalek likely knew the story of his mother’s real identity and yet he found himself with the terrible, lowly position as the son of a concubine, the bottom of the heap. He must have felt even greater shame, frustration and anger. We can imagine his feelings slowly metastasizing within him and turning into a violent and cruel hatred.

The Talmud concludes its story by saying that the family of Abraham shouldn’t have rejected Timna.

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A Holiday Fantasy: Your New Year’s Resolution for 2016

Dec31

by: on December 31st, 2015 | 3 Comments »

Editor’s note: Our Tikkun contributing writer David Sylvester offers us a contemporary and super-shortened update and transformation to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but it’s not just for Christians, and it addresses our hopes for the New Year. See what parts of his fantasy could be yours as you make your own New Year’s resolutions using our TIKKUN mantra, “Don’t be realistic — go for your highest visions of the world you really want.” And meantime, if you haven’t yet made an end-of-the-year donation to Tikkun, do it now at www.tikkun.org/donate or by mailing a check to Tikkun, 2342 Shattuck Ave #1200, Berkeley, Ca. 94704. Meanwhile, may we all have a healthy, love-filled and transformative 2016 — Rabbi Michael Lerner.

All December, the pressure had been building, and something inside was about to explode, and maybe this time I wouldn’t make it through this one last week, and I’d wind up leaving cerebral spaghetti all over the walls, and there I was, trying to keep it together in line at Starbucks, and the baristas had the spirit too. They were furiously pumping out the espressos and steaming up the hot milk, but the addicts were edgy, so the manager cranked up the mechanical music until the speakers were thundering and crackling with “MURRRRRRY MURRRYYY CHRIZZZZZZZZZMUZZZZ….,” — and it was like this electronic avalanche was crashing down on my shoulders, and I was crouching low to escape it, while sliding some dollar bills across the counter to the cashier and mouthing: “L-A-T-T-E.” She took my money and gave me the look. She got it. Holiday Trauma.

I turned from the counter and found myself waiting outside in the parking lot, jostled back and forth by invisible elbows, and just past the fences, the cars and trucks were stopped dead on Interstate 880 like a locomotive off its rails, everyone trying to head south toward four different shopping malls. I could hear the muffled wailing of the children trapped inside the cars, dying to go to the new Episode VII of Star Wars instead shopping for borrriiing things, and I sensed the moms were gritting their teeth, because after all, for Chrissake, all the work it takes to keep everyone happy, and the significant others was just sitting there, staring at the red taillights, lost in a fog, thinking about work and their administrative assistants.

I was really needing my latte,and so I tried to head back inside, but a dozen people surged around me, pushing into my arms these multi-colored boxes of the things I didn’t want or need, and my arms were sagging, and some in the crowd began to sneer at my ingratitude, and others were envious because I was getting so much, so they started ripping the boxes from my hands and tearing at the colored paper, and the door to Starbucks opened, and the loudspeakers roared forth with, “HAAAVE A HAAAAPPPPYYY HAAPPPPPY NUUUUUUUU …,” and if this is the way the old year ends, then heaven help us for the New Year, but it didn’t matter because I was falling to the pavement at the feet of the mob. Then with a scream, I woke.

I was in bed.

I was sitting upright, the blankets twisted around my waist, my hair and neck wet with sweat, the sun shining through the windows.

All the world was silent.

I rubbed my face. What a nightmare! Or was it? Was I now I falling asleep into a new dream? Maybe I’m dreaming that I’m awake.

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Four Santas

Dec24

by: on December 24th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

I am late returning from the North Pole this year because Santa has been on the road. I am one of Santa’s helpers who come to the North Pole every year to help with the preparations for Santa’s Christmas Eve work. I help track and locate children who have moved since last Christmas, so I watch migration patterns closely. This year has been awful for so many children.

One might think that the Syrian refugee crisis, the kidnapping and murder of children in Africa, and the immigration of unaccompanied children from Central America to the United States would not concern Santa, but it does. Many of the children who, with their parents and siblings, have left their homes in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other places to find shelter in a safe country are not Christians, and they do not observe Christmas. The good news is that religion is of no concern to Santa. His care for children extends beyond Christians, beyond the Christmas season, and beyond whether or not the child has been naughty or nice.

Santa cares that children can live in safety, that they have food, clothing, shelter, health care, and education. He cares that children are protected from both structural and personal violence. He cares that children are protected from the hypocrisy and vulgarities of adult life. Children ought to occupy a zone of innocence and of Christmas magic for the few fleeting years that they are children. I say and say again that childhood is so short, and adulthood, if we are blest, is so much longer. The obligations, anxieties, disappointments, competitions, and struggles of adult life last for decades. We rob our children of a precious gift when we rush them into adulthood, even when they seem to want it and seem to be ready for it.

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Kids’ Questions on a Lockdown Planet, Thinking the Parentally Unthinkable

Dec22

by: Tom Engelhardt & Frida Berrigan on December 22nd, 2015 | 1 Comment »

It runs in the FamilyFear? Tell me about it. Unfortunately, I’m so old that I’m not sure I really remember what I felt when, along with millions of other schoolchildren of the 1950s, I ducked and covered like Bert the Turtle, huddling under my desk while sirens howled outside the classroom window. We were, of course, being prepared to protect ourselves from the nuclear obliteration of New York City. But let me tell you, I do remember those desks and they did not exactly instill a sense of confidence in a child.

Don’t by the way think that, from personal fallout shelters to fashion tips for the apocalypse, adults weren’t subjected to similar visions of “safety” so hollow as to inspire fear. A government-sponsored civil defense manual of that moment,How to Survive an Atomic Bomb, was typical enough in suggesting that men, in danger of being “caught outdoors in a sudden attack,” should wear wide-brimmed fedoras, which would give them “at least some protection from the ‘heat flash’” of a nuclear explosion. For women, as Paul Boyer pointed out in By the Bomb’s Early Light, his classic book on post-Hiroshima nuclear fallout in American society, “stockings and long-sleeved dresses” were de rigueur for a nuclear event.

No kidding. That really was the prosaic 1950s version of the end of everything. I can hardly believe I lived through such an era of half-expressed, yet genuinely horrific fears, no less that from my school years into adulthood I had recurring nightmares filled with mushroom clouds and post-apocalyptic nuclear landscapes, or that I plunged with relish into the era’s pulp science fiction filled with survivor colonies and mutants galore. In the style of parenting of that moment, most children, I suspect, were left on their own to struggle with the prospective obliteration of all life on planet Earth. I still remember how shocking and yet eerily familiar it seemed when, on October 22, 1962, President John Kennedy addressed the American people, essentially informing us that we might be at the edge of oblivion in what came to be known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. For many of us — I was then just starting college — it seemed as if the secular equivalent of prophesy was finally coming true and that we would all momentarily be toast.

In those years, I can’t remember a single conversation with my parents about the nuclear drills at school (even though they obviously heard the same sirens), or for that matter about nuclear war. (My best friend, then and now, assures me that his experience was no different.) We lived, my parents and I, in silence through the early years of what might be called the first age of the apocalypse, that moment when the power to destroy all life had fallen from the hands of the gods into distinctly human ones. We still live in such an age.

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‘California’ has Always Been Islamic

Dec21

by: Ed Simon on December 21st, 2015 | 1 Comment »

California as an IslandIn 1496 Garcia Rodriguez de Montalvo, a Spanish author of that maximalist pre-cursor to the modern novel known as “romance” wrote a popular book entitled Las Sergas de Esplandian or “The Adventures of Esplandian.” As a genre romance was a fusion of poetry and prose united in the telling of fantastic tales, and the titular adventures of Esplandian was no exception. Montalvo’s volume was similar to the many romances consigned to the fire by the curate in Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote, an adventure tale filled with amazing if not dangerous stories of exotic lands. Montalvo’s romance features a powerful black queen who fights with an army of monstrous gryphons. Her kingdom was an island at the western edge of the terrestrial map, where the sun descends and Eden was rumored to still exist; as the author wrote, this island was “very close to that part of the Terrestrial Paradise.” Montalvo feminized the word “caliph,” the Arabic term for a religious ruler, and “christened” his heroine Queen Califia. A ruler as powerful, sage, and wise as Queen Califia would naturally deserve to have her name conflated with her nation, and so the mythical earthly paradise at the ends of the world would also have an Arabic name – California.

It’s instructive to remember this but a few weeks after Sayeed Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik shot and killed fourteen people and injured twenty-one more in San Bernardino, located in that non-mythic California. Predictably there has been an increase in that vile bigotry of Islamophobia throughout America. Perhaps less predictably the frontrunner in the primary elections of one of our nation’s two major parties has called for the “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

Perhaps this flirtation on the political stage with outright fascism, a policy proposal which is basically a call for preemptive ethnic cleansing, should not have been surprising coming from a man who has already advocated for the monitoring of all Muslims in a national database and the requirement that they be forced to carry national ID cards baring their religious beliefs. This candidate, whose name I don’t need to write, and his popularity, is based upon a simple yet pernicious category mistake, that Muslims are de facto not Americans. And yet this position is historically untenable, as the New World which was that Terrestrial Paradise at the western terminus of the world was threaded through with every culture, men and women brought willingly and unwillingly to a land as new as invention and as old as legend. The word “California” is a corrective to the view of history that has it that “America” is exclusive a white, Anglo-Saxon, and Protestant nation. When innocent Americans’ blood was shed on our soil, the name of that very land which it rained on is etymologically Arabic. The tragedy is not that a Muslim killed Americans, the tragedy is that an American killed other Americans.

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Explaining the Holocaust: How and Why It Happened

Dec21

by: Rabbi David Zucker on December 21st, 2015 | 6 Comments »

Explaining the HolocaustHow can one transmit the enormity of the Holocaust to a younger generation? In this very sensitive and perceptive book, Mordecai Schreiber has achieved that goal. In two hundred pages he is able to provide not only an overview of the Holocaust, but also present a variety of Jewish and Christian theological responses to this time of madness and murder, which he reexamines now, seventy years after Auschwitz.

The author takes us through the First World War and its aftermath, particularly in Germany, the rise of Hitler, the key architects of the Shoah, focusing on Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels, Adolph Eichmann, and Josef Mengele. He follows with the evolution of the Holocaust, The Judenrat dilemma, and Jewish inaction during the Holocaust (yes, there were things that could have been done). This historical survey concludes with a chapter about the Righteous Gentiles, which shows that even in the midst of the greatest evil there were many throughout Europe and in all walks of life who did not lose the image of God.

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Trump Reveals the Toxic Ideology of the GOP

Dec18

by: Colin Tipping on December 18th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Editors Note: Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives never endorses candidates or political parties. But it does welcome articles from our readers who may have strong feelings about candidates or parties, including those candidates or parties that hold views or support policies very different from those we support.

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Donald TrumpIn her song“What I Need,”Karen Taylor-Good sings,“You don’t always get what you want, you get what you need.”

This is a lesson that the Republican Party is having to learn right now and they don’t like it one little bit. Let me explain.

The leaders of the GOP clearly don’t want Donald Trump to be their party’s nominee for President. They don’t want him representing the Party in any way at all. They are fervently praying for him to self-destruct or just fade away before he destroys the Party!

But just like the song says, he is giving them exactly what they need: someone who is able to reflect back to them the state of the consciousness of the GOP and all that is rotten within it, not to mention that of others who, like Fox News, cloak themselves in its mantle.

If you are familiar with the psychological theory of projection, you can probably see what is going on here. The principle states that rather than face what is unacceptable within ourselves, we find someone on whom to project it. That way we can continue to deny it in ourselves while making them wrong for it.

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A Lonely Lawyer

Dec18

by: Uri Avnery on December 18th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

Editor’s Note: For many years Israelis have ignored the suffering that the Occupation was causing the Palestinian people in the West Bank, believing that erecting a Wall around the Palestinians would protect the Jewish state. But now, in the face of decades of discrimination, some Israeli Arabs are fighting back against the daily acts of violence that Israel’s occupation requires in order to maintain itself. Avnery’s analysis of that violence reminds us of the similarities to the daily violence against African Americans in the U.S., highlighted most recently by the inability of jury to convict police murdering African American civilians in Baltimore and the year long cover-up of such a murder by the mayor and police chief of Chicago. But what we see in the U.S. media of this ongoing violence in the U.S. is mostly buried from our eyes unless someone happens to have a video exposing police lies. In Israel, the cover-ups are not necessary, because a significant part of the population rejoices when Palestinians are killed, perceiving the whole Palestinian population as an enemy. What a tragic reality for the Jewish people whose Torah taught “thou shalt not murder.”-Rabbi Michael Lerner

BY NOW EVERY ISRAELI has seen the TV clip several times – showing a 14-year old Arab girl being shot dead near the central market of Jewish Jerusalem.

The story is well known: two sisters, 14 and 16 years old, have decided to attack Israelis. The clip, taken by a security camera, shows one of them, clad in traditional Arab garb, jumping around on the sidewalk, brandishing a pair of scissors.

The whole thing looks almost like a dance. She is jumping around aimlessly, waving the scissors, threatening no one in particular. Then a soldier aims a pistol at her and shoots her. He runs to the girl and kills her while she is lying helplessly on the ground. The other girl is grievously wounded.

The soldier was lauded for his bravery by the Minister of Defense, a former army Chief of Staff, and by his present successor. Throughout the political establishment, not a single voice was raised against the killing. Even the opposition was silent.

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Humiliation is the Root of All Terrorism

Dec17

by: on December 17th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

Editor’s Note:We at Tikkun have long advocated for the adoption of a Strategy of Generosity in US foreign policy, decisively shifting our perspective on how we relate to the rest of the world from the “power over” approach which has failed miserably for 7000 years and produced nothing but violence and counter violence to a deep spiritual approach that recognizes the humanity of others and demonstrates our care for the well-being of all who live on the planet. In the following piece published on Truthout yesterday, our Editor-at-Large Peter Gabel offer a philosophical foundation for that vision that shows the relationship between healing and repairing the wounds that separate us and ending the otherwise unending cycle of violence that causes so much human suffering. If you find this compelling, help us spread the message.Join our interfaith and secular-humanist-welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressivesordonate to Tikkun. Read our proposedGlobal Marshall Planwhich would be a massive step toward implementing what Gabel calls for in this article. Don’t just read and love this article–join us in making it happen! Ifyou have a strategy or want to argue against ours, please send it in an email to me in exactly the form that you’d wish it to be published on our Tikkun Daily blog or website, including a one sentence bio.–Rabbi Michael Lerner, EditorTikkunrabbilerner.tikkun@gmail.com

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The recent killings in Paris and San Bernadino have many people at once scared for themselves and their families, angry in a way that makes some susceptible to anti-Muslim rhetoric, and also utterly shaken that people in our own midst can be drawn to ISIS and others who want to do us great violence for seemingly no reason. How could anyone wish to start shooting and killing large numbers of innocent, anonymous people in the name of restoring a patriarchal Califate from a thousand years ago? Syed Farook was a seemingly normal county employee, an environmental specialist earning $77,000 per year living in relative economic comfort in southern California, recently married, and the father of a six-month old daughter. How are we to make any sense of his and Tashfeen Malik’s secret devotion to ISIS and their decision to suddenly become mass murderers who simultaneously effectively committed suicide, leaving their little child with her grandmother? And how could tens of thousands of such people like these two be massing in Syria and Iraq, ready to become martyrs for such a cause?

As compelling as these questions are, one would have to infer from the public discussion of these killings and from the mass media that we do not really want to know the answers. The idea that ISIS and other radical jihadis are simply “evil,” or that they “hate freedom” or are simply incomprehensible purveyors of a “hateful ideology” (to quote the repeated formulation of Barack Obama) just begs the question of why they are the way they are and why they believe what they believe. To actually understand Farook and Malik and those who engage in violent terrorism, and based on that understanding begin to do something to change the conditions that have produced and will likely continue to produce so much human suffering and loss, we have to attempt to grasp the terrorists’ experience of life from the inside, to see them as human just as we are, and to see what shaped them such that their thoughts and actions make sense to them.

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Peace for the World, Healing for the Climate

Dec16

by: on December 16th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Red Line Action at Beale

Yesterday I was arrested at Beale Air Force Base, near Marysville, California, along with seven others. We were charged with trespassing. This video of me speaking was filmed after we crossed the line onto the base. In it I begin to explain the connections between US military policy and climate change. The letter that we attempted to deliver to the base commander gives a more detailed explanation of our concerns and our reasons for demonstrating.

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