This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing in from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such a violence that the angel can no longer close them.
In these troubled times, when we see societal tolerance of speech approaching that of fascism, when open hate speech about anything or anyone approximating an “enemy”, where even the victims of oppression are treated with hostility and suspicion, one feels helpless in attempting to maintain a sense of justice and decency. How does one respond to what appears to be a situation of crisis? What kind of discourse is appropriate as a response? This week’s perasha (Torah portion) begins at a similar moment of crisis- All seems lost. An innocent descent to Egypt to purchase food has ended up with youngest brother Benyamin imprisoned by the enemy authorities.
When I reached manhood, I saw rising and growing upon the wall shared between life and death, a ladder barer all the time, invested with an unique power of evulsion: this was the dream….Now see darkness draw away, and LIVING become, in the form of a harsh allegorical asceticism, the conquest of extraordinary powers by which we feel ourselves confusedly crossed, but which we only express incompletely, lacking loyalty, cruel perception, and perseverance…. Rene Char, Fureur et Mystere
In the traditional literature, the patriarch most symbolic of the Jewish people is Jacob (Yaakov in Hebrew), who comes into his own in this week’s Torah reading. While more of a passive player in the previous episode, Jacob comes to life- as he is forced into exile. This essay will deal with dreams, the dreams of a refugee. It is not accidental that the first dream recorded in the Torah is associated with a man on the run, who has placed a stone from the road under his head in order to sleep.
The story of Noah is on the surface rather straight forward. The people are bad, Noah is good, God decides to wipe out the Earth but saves Noah and a large number of representative animals in a big wooden boat. After bringing down rain for 40 days and nights, the rain stops, and Noah sends out two animal emissaries, when the second finds dry land, they disembark. Makes for a great children’s book, cartoon, or sci-fi movie. Versions of this tale are found throughout the ancient world, and much literature is dedicated to the roots of this story.
This year, perhaps more than in years past, as we contemplate the spiritual process of Yom Kippur as ritually signified by white rainment, white clothing, the special white Torah ark covers used for these days, we should meditate upon the true nature of white light, a light made up of all the possible colors of the spectrum.
One of the central passages of the seder involves a presentation of the questions of, and the responses to four paradigmatic sons. The four sons are not four distinct individuals, rather, each one of us is all four of the sons, at different moments of our personal spiritual development.
These days, there is no shortage of hatred to go around. Tragically, much of this hatred has erupted into tragic violence in Jerusalem this week, a brutal set of murders in a synagogue that most clearly illustrates the religious, and we may say, biblical nature of this conflict.
As the “Day of Atonement” approaches I invite you to reflect on two of my previously posted essays, the first of which was updated yesterday with new material derived from a beautiful teaching by the Tiferet Shlomo on the experience of Yom Kippur as being “taken inside” the healing refuge of the Divine.
As political battles rage around the world and suffering continues, where does our hope fall? Is hope a realization for the future or something that can be seen in the present? Mark Kirschbaum explains how Messianic hope is a meant as a possibility for a just present.
If we are to evolve as humans and as people, we must be cognizant of our humanity, to long to see days where children can grow up normally and expect to reach adulthood, and live out normal lives, and not worry that they or their loved ones may be struck down for reasons of “politics”.