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 “Wilderness Torah”

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).

Imagine No Religion

I am writing this post on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. It is a festive occasion, but I am having trouble getting in the mood, despite the beautiful service, music and wise words of our leaders.

 Last week was a shitty week. While addressing a group of students on Friday night at Hillel (SF Jewish student center where I work), I found myself talking about the violent events that were still going on as I spoke.

We have enough to worry about in this world – overpopulation, global warming, violence, hunger, natural disasters… do we really need to intentionally add any?

That  a few people made a movie that they knew would be deeply offensive to a large group of the population is plain stupid. It is okay to be controversial if you have a point that needs to be made, but there are some lines that don’t get crossed.  Anyone associated with this movie and intentionally knew of its controversial nature have blood on their hands. I hope they are not sleeping at night. 

I understand that many of those involved did not know what they were participating in. Here is a link to a statement made by actress, Anna Gurji on Neil Gaiman’s website (thanks to reader Christopher Wright).

It is natural to be angry when your religion has been deeply offended and to express that anger in demonstrations, but to take the steps needed to violently attack and kill a fellow person, innocent bystanders who are there to create bridges of understanding with your people, shows a woeful lack of comprehension of your own religion’s teachings. Where were the religious teachers teaching the sin of violence and murder? If religious men were leaving their mosques in an angry and violent mood, bent on murder, what were their Imams preaching? And if they were preaching peace, understanding and taking the higher moral road, why weren’t they being listened to?

Finally, the rumor, no – the lie – that this movie was produced and funded by Jews was not only baseless, but anti-Semitic. It traveled around the Internet at an intense speed, and took a long time to be disclaimed. It was too easy.

Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

In times like this, John Lennon’s lyrics make sense, but it doesn’t have to be like this. I want to live in a world where we celebrate diversity and without everyone being the same. I want to celebrate Chanukah, and join my neighbors for Diwali, and my good friends around their Christmas tree, secure in my own religions identity. I want my Israeli-born son to continue sitting at the same school table with the Palestinian child, and I would prefer that child bring his own food to my son’s birthday party, rather than not come at all because his parents fear offending me.

Last week, Muslims were offended, Christians murdered, and Jews blamed. It is not a question of moving on: we must learn the lessons that have haunted and tainted all our histories.

There is no religious justification for hate, violence and murder.

Wishing everyone of all races and religions, a peaceful and hate-free new year.

Shana Tova L’Kol Bnei Adam.

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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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