Friday, 11 September 2015

This High Holidays I'm Challenging the 'Modern Jewish Sacred'

Here's the opening:

We are entering the Jewish High Holidays. A period of reflection, of repentance, of returning to God. In Hebrew we call it 'teshuvah'.

Built in to the Jewish religious calendar is the assumption that every year we will lose our spiritual way and will need to find a way back to all that is Sacred. That period of 'returning' begins with the Jewish New Year and culminates with Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) ten days later. It is not only a time of individual repentance, it is a time of Jewish communal contrition.

But what happens when we enter the New Year of 5776 (September 13th) and realise that the Jewish Sacred is itself lost and wandering?

In past centuries and millennia it was easy to define the Jewish Sacred.

God was sacred. So much so, that even his name could not be spoken or written.

God's creation, and in particular human life, was sacred. We all held within us the spark of the Divine. 

The Holy of Holies, the inner sanctuary of the Tabernacle where God dwelt during the Children of Israel's forty years in the desert, was sacred.

The inner sanctuary of the First Temple where the tablets of stone containing the Ten Commandments were kept, was sacred.

The Torah, with its commandments for building and maintaining a God centred, just society in the Land of Israel, was sacred.

The rabbinic commentaries that helped us to interpret the Law and apply it in places far away from The Land of Israel, were sacred.

As Jews dispersed, the sacredness of Time replaced the sacredness of Land as we made holy the Sabbath and the annual cycle of festivals, liturgy and prayer.

Righteous acts were sacred as we fulfilled the commandments to protect the weakest and most vulnerable among us.

But what is Sacred for Jews today? And is it worthy of holiness?

Confronting the Modern Jewish Sacred

I've just returned from two weeks travelling around Israel and the West Bank with my family.  We met with Jewish Israelis as well as Palestinians, both Christian and Muslim.

As we travelled, listened and talked, the Modern Jewish Sacred revealed itself to us....

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