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Shana Tovah 2011

This Wednesday night as the sun sets, the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashana, will be upon us.

The Jewish new year has a number of key themes, being divine kingship, remembrance, and personal introspecive calling.  It is a solemn time, and whereas a “new year” normally has a connotation of party and celebration, the Jewish new year is very different.  It is contemplative, corrective, and focussed on making the most of the fragility of the gift of life. 

Jewish tradition regards its new year as a universal construct.  It is a day of the anniversary of the completion of the creation of the world.  Jewish philosophy holds that G-d provided the world in an incomplete state – and charged the role of completion to be accomplished in partnership with humankind.  Even the human body is incomplete – signified by the covenant of the brit milah – the male circumcision. 

Our world is in a constant state of creation and fulfillment.  Never before has the fragility of our world been so damaged by human intraction, and now we need more than ever the values of the Torah to be the guiding foundation of our interpersonal conduct.

Who could have thought that in our supposed civilised world, with instant and global communication channels, that there is so much confusion and distortion?  How can a general assembly of world nations receive and watch (and in some cases) applaud a tyrant that attributes September 11 as a conspiracy of the USA and Zionists, and who does little to hide his ambitions to become a nuclear enabled aggressor?  How can the leader of the Palestinians, an accredited holocaust denier, stand in the same assembly and accuse Israel of ethnic cleansing, whilst he himself refuses to so much as acknowledge the historic connections of the Jewish people to their homeland?  How can the people this man leads be awarded a State when they promulgate violence and destruction, and refuse to contemplate an end to the conflict?  To excuse their deeds is contemptible.  To mask their intentions is unconscionable.

The blinding ignorance surrounding what is happening in front of our eyes, and what it means for the future freedom of humanity itself is quite staggering.  Netanyahu called the UN “the theatre of the absurd”  and indeed it would be quite laughable if it were not so serious. 

What happens between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will not be influenced by opinions such as mine or yours.  The reality is that the infrastructure of a Palestinian state is being built, including accomodation, military, education and social facilities.  Practically, the only thing that will be negotiated is when the State will be created and what its borders will be.  What the UN needs to rest control of, and assert, is an end to conflict and a state of peaceful relations.  To reward the Palestinian’s with a State without a committed peace is lunacy.  Yet they harbour no amibitions of peace and make this quite clear for all who choose to listen.  

Whether G-d has other plans for the Jewish homeland for us to witness in our days, I am not sure.  But as with the creation of the world, perhaps it is not up to G-d, but up to us instead.  We need to perfect this creation, complete the task, somehow overcome the obstacles and create peace.  John Milton warned, “Hypocrisy is the only evil that walks invisible.”  May this Rosh Hashana herald an end to the hypocrisy that we see in front of us, for until we get to that stage, there is not even a pathway towards that elusive garden of peace.

It is during these days of the Jewish New Year, through to Yom Kippur next week that it is divinely decreed as to “who will live, and who will die” in the year ahead.  Too many people have needlessly lost their lives to the evil insanity of enemies sworn to our destruction.  We can only pray that the threat of terrorism will be contained by just decision making at the United Nations.  May we be awarded life – both indivdually by our creator, and nationally by our world body of nations, not seemingly united at this juncture in history.

This may seem a very pessimistic post to share in the lead up to Rosh Hashana.  I am not one to deny reality or deny the gravity of the geopolitical climate surrounding the State of Israel.  However I mentioned before the covenant of the brit milah, representing the human partnership with G-d and aspriring towards physical holiness.  There is of course another covenant between G-d and the Jewish people, the brit ben habtarim.  In this convenant G-d, following the flood of Noah, promises the land of Israel to Abraham and his descendents. 

Rabbi Shimshon Rephoel Hirsch commentates on Bereshit (6:18), “But with you will I establish My covenant,” by saying“… A covenant is an unconditional promise; it will be fulfilled without any dependency on external factors, and even in the face of external factors. The promise of a ‘Brit’ is absolute…”

This is something that we may well contemplate as we listen to the story of the akedat Yitzchak on Rosh Hashana.  Through our covenental relationship with G-d we can bring the finite and the infinate together, and through this all adversity can be overcome.

Wishing all Jewgle readers a Shana Tovah, a year of sweetness, economic stability, political conciliation, truth, honesty, and prosperity.  May we be sealed for a year of good health and vitality of life.

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