Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.
As I write this, my friends and neighbors are celebrating the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, and beginning a period of self-examination. This process includes asking forgiveness for those wrongs, and meditating on ways to continue Tikun Olam, the work of repairing the world, by attending to their own spiritual needs and the needs of others in the new year.
Even though I am not Jewish, I find that fall is naturally a time of reflection, when the weather mellows, the days begin to shorten, and nature withdraws from the exuberance of summer. It is a time when we are reminded of mortality, when we draw inward, when it is appropriate to take stock—of the “harvest” we’ve labored over and are bringing in, of where we are on our life’s journey, of the state of our world and our small place in it.
The state of the world right now is enough to send anyone running for cover. Today I read an article by Leonard Pitts, about the strength of the Tea Party, the organization and big money interests behind it. Last night I saw again the clip from the Republican debates in which Wolf Blitzer, asking Ron Paul if an uninsured man should be allowed to die, and the mob cried “Let him die.”
I was reminded of nothing so much as the Passion Play we do every Good Friday, in which the mob cries out to Pilate “Crucify him!” when Pilate asks if they want to release Jesus. Another mob at the debates cheered at the high number of executions in Texas. Today, walking the dog on a pristine fall morning, I passed a car with a bumper sticker which read, “It’s time to get rid of those masquerading as Americans!” And who might that be? I thought with a shudder. Get rid of them (us) how?
Perhaps the most troubling thing about all of this rhetoric—calling Obama a Nazi, a Marxist, or the Antichrist—is not only its lack of historical accuracy, but also the inflated righteousness that masks baser emotions.
It was the Nazis who wanted an Arayan nation, unblemished by the weak, the sick, the different, the uninsured.
It is social Darwinism which seeks to leave to fend for themselves the sick, the weak, the different, the uninsured.
That the Tea Party can claim itself to be the party of Christ—who said feed the hungry, tend to the sick, love your neighbor (even if your neighbor is Hispanic, Black or gay)—is frightening. Whether they know it or not, the Tea Partiers would be right there screaming for Jesus to be crucified, would be throwing people into gas ovens.
Well, that’s pretty harsh, you might say. I don’t think so. The kind of righteousness now on display, untroubled by introspection, by nuanced thinking, by facts, is the kind of unalloyed certainty that fuels mob actions. It is the kind of hate and blood lust that seeks to project all uncomfortable feelings on some hated “other,” be they Jew, immigrant, or the weak. It is a frightening, complex world, and this kind of certainty allows people to simplify it.
We all long for an ordered life. We are all frightened on some level. I think those things are given.But how we choose to deal with these givens makes all the difference. Here is a quote about the work of repairing the world by Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine:
'We in the Tikkun Community use the word "spiritual" to include all those whose deepest values lead them to challenge the ethos of selfishness and materialism that has led people into a frantic search for money and power and away from a life that places love, kindness, generosity, peace, non-violence, social justice, awe and wonder at the grandeur of creation, thanksgiving, humility and joy at the center of our lives.'
In the spirit of Rosh Hashanah, I hope we can find humility within ourselves, and the courage to challenge the ethos of selfishness and materialism that threatens to poison our country.
Note: Find Sara's writings at Word Medicine, www.saratbaker.wordpress.com
Thanks to Rebecca Corey for the quote from the Talmud