31 January 2010


The tenth of 19 brief meditations on the 19 blessings of the Amidah.


Sound the great shofar for our freedom, raise the banner to gather our exiles, and gather us from the four corners of the earth. Blessed are you, Eternal, who gathers the dispersed of his people Israel.

This blessing reminds us that danger is ever-present. Just this week, the Brooklyn Paper reported that our neighborhood was hit with a call to "Kill Jews," a sick expression of anti-Semitism that demonstrates the continued existence of a well-developed and long-standing hatred of the Jew. It brings to mind the idea that we actually are in exile--geographic or virtual--when one's home neighborhood can be the seat of expression of such hatred. But Brooklyn, thank God, is not Tehran, or Ethiopia, are parts of Russia--where a real, palpable danger still lurks for those who are Jews. This blessing reminds us daily that in our dispersion there is risk and that despite our distance from one another, all Jews are connected to one another.

But this blessing also reminds us more generally that all of humanity is dispersed; that the measure of our character as human beings is the degree to which we acknowledge, as Judaism also teaches, that the human is made in the Divine Image. That is to say, we are all connected: regardless of where we are born, of the color of our skin, and of the God we do or do not worship.

This morning I read with great horror Nicholas Kristof's column in the New York Times about rape as a weapon of war in the Congo region. We are challenged in reading such stories to re-dedicate ourselves to the absolute understanding that hatred and oppression and war connect us all to one another. That when one is not free, we all are not free.

"Raise the banner to gather our exiles, and gather us from the four corners of the earth."

An earth where we are all at home in the place we choose to call home. Israel. America. The Congo. Iran.

Raise the banner. Over and over again. Sound the Great Shofar. Over and over again.

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