Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “G-d’”

Wake Up!

Today is Yom Kippur, possibly the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. But there is a clear message for all peoples.

Over the 10 Days of Repentance (and sometimes for the whole month preceding), Jews close their eyes and blow the Shofar, the ram’s horn. The ram’s horn comes from the Biblical story – the Akedah – where Abraham almost sacrifices his son, Isaac, to show his utter faith in Gd.  

During this intense period of retrospection, Jews are commanded to judge themselves and their actions, to make amends to both their fellow humans and Gd, and to commit to leading a better life.

The ram’s horn wakes us from our complacency and pushes us to step outside our comfort zone. This is a universal message. We are destroying the earth, using chemicals on fellow humans, allowing children to go to be hungry, women in fear for their safety, and people denied basic rights.

Take a moment and listen to the shofar (ram’s horn) being blown around the world (from Africa in this case) and wake up!

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1 and The First Decree, both released by Tourmaline Books. Ashbar – Book 3 – is due for release in October 2013. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

A Year of Peace

Tonight Jews all over the world will come together to welcome in our new year – Rosh Hashanah. It is a sweet occasion and we eat apples and honey to celebrate. But Rosh Hashanah is also the start of 10 days of introspection that culminate in Yom Kippur, a day of fasting and supplication that climaxes with the final blow of the Shofar, the ram’s horn, that signifies the closing of the gates of Heaven.

Zelig Golden of Wilderness Torah

Zelig Golden of Wilderness Torah

There are three levels of sins and forgiveness: the sins against G-d, those against our fellow humans, and those against the world.

Heavy stuff, but it is a great time for some soul-searching and an opportunity to mend bridges with people we care about. But what I love about this period is that, no matter how badly you have sinned against G-d, if you are genuine in your repentance, then you get a clean slate to start the new year.

However, you cannot ask G-d’s forgiveness for sins against your fellow men and women. Only the person you have wronged can forgive you and you need to approach them with a genuine desire to confess and be forgiven – tweets don’t count.

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Finally, a person cannot find peace with G-d unless it is found with our fellow humans, and peace cannot be attained within, unless there is peace in the world. There is something very humbling and holistic here. Above all, it is something very powerful.

There is so much to learn from this period of time. But it is also a time to simply celebrate life and our relationship with one another. Michelle Citrin, a great singer, sums it up in her song: Gotta Love Rosh Hashanah

Wishing all my Jewish friends a Shana Tova, and to everyone a year of health, happiness and peace.

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1 and The First Decree, both released by Tourmaline Books. Ashbar – Book 3 – is due for release in October 2013. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

Tomorrow – My Son The Man

They grow up so fast!  Why I remember when…

Tomorrow morning, my son will stand before our family, friends, and the Jewish community. He will fulfill a 700-year-old rite of passage, as he declares himself a man in G-d’s eyes and the eyes of the Jewish community. He will take on the responsibility to be counted as one of the 10 adults needed for community prayer, lead prayer and study, and will be accountable for his actions before G-d and the Jewish community. In fact, Ariela and I will actually renounce our responsibility for such actions as part of the ceremony.

Rites-of-passage mean a lot for me and I have enjoyed ceremonies at every junction of my life. Some are fictionalized in A Gardener’s Tale. But as Winston Churchill said after the Battle of Britain: “This is not the end. Neither is it the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning.”

Changing diapers, making egg-in-a-nest and nursing scraped knees are behind us. Discussions on the fairer sex, fashion, image, values, and politics, have replaced them and I have learned to embrace the change. But the responsibilities relinquished are replaced with the responsibilities of cultivating a young man who will be a kind and generous person, an activist, a philanthropist, a world-changer.

I have tried to be a nurturing father, a supportive husband, a fair boss, and an inspiring leader. My son has seen me succeed and fail. He has seen me address crowds as an author, rap my annual speech to students, celebrate my friends and students successes, and cry at their failures and losses.

Tomorrow, I will offer words of wisdom, hugs of love, and nods and thumbs up of support. Tomorrow, I will relinquish my responsibilities as a father, and take up my responsibilities as a friend and companion. In a world where so many young men are denied the positive role model of a father walking alongside them, where masculinity is ensconced in the unforgiving rule of law, the scavenger economy, and the uncompromising street, I have nothing to offer but myself and my example.

I can only hope to be worthy of the task ahead.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

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