Thoughts of the unrest in Baltimore and Tel Aviv have not allowed me much rest these past weeks. I have never been to Baltimore, nor have any direct connection to that city but do have personal connections to Tel Aviv. Having said that, as Baltimore is America and Tel Aviv, Israel, what happens in those cities, what local and national leaders, come to the fore and what they say, have bearing upon the future direction of both countries and societies.
As I watched talking head after talking head arguing his or her personal, political, economic, social and yes, even racial theory in futile attempts explaining what was happening and why, I felt my head spinning! In the midst of media overload, the reason for societal crises facing America and Israel became abundantly clear to me. Too many of us have lost faith in fellow citizens, paralleling our lost faith in Governmental institutions as well as political and all too often, religious leaders. In reality, both America and Israel seem to have lost faith in themselves..
Am I, one individual, a rabbi in a Reform temple on the edge of the Everglades in South Florida, prepared to do something about it?
Yes, I am!
Belief and faith are based upon the assumption that there is an abstract ideal, goal, or dream, so important, that one will devote heart, soul and might to protect and defend it from any threat, spiritual or otherwise.
Restoring our faith in America and Israel will not be found by acquiring the latest iPhone, Tablet or Bling, but it will require something for which a pledge, credit, debit card or even cash will not solve. Quite simply, it will require each of us to honestly ask ourselves what connects us to our neighbor next door, down the street or across town? It will necessitate, not only examining our personal core values we as citizens hold near and dear, but also to the core values of the “others” as well.
The only way that can happen is by meeting and speaking with one another.
It requires of us to re-establish and in many cases, build anew, the belief for Americans, that America IS special and for Israelis, that Israel IS the Homeland for all Jews, White, Black or Brown, wearing kippot serugot (knit kippot), shtreimels, sheitels or nothing at all! If Americans believe in each other as a can-do people, if Israelis have the faith that each, in his or her own way, can change our world, these will not be just statements of faith, but will become actuality itself.
Among the many traditions concerning the Messianic Age, is that any and every child born, has the potentiality of becoming the Messiah, the Bringer of a New World. How would we know if he or she is the Messiah? By the answers to the following questions: How is the world changed because of his or her presence? How are people changed because of interactions with him/her? Is the world a better place because that individual has walked the earth?
How will the Messiah bring about world change – will it be instantaneous or by one person at a time, one family at a time, one community at a time?
The following story may help answer that question:
A monastery had fallen upon hard times. Once it had been filled with monks and its church resounded with the sounds of praise to God. Now, only a handful of old monks shuffled through the cloisters and prayed with heavy hearts.
On the edge of the monastery’s woods, an old rabbi had built a small hut to which he would retire from time to time for quiet meditation and study. The monks welcomed him and enjoyed his quiet company on their grounds.
One day, the Abbot of the monastery visited the rabbi in his hut and poured his heart out to him. The rabbi listened to his story and then said to the Abbot: “You and your brothers are serving God with heavy hearts. I will tell you a secret that you can tell your brothers only one time and after that, no one must ever say it aloud again.” The rabbi looked directly into the eyes of the Abbot and said to him: “The Messiah is among you; he is one of you!”
The Abbot hurried from the rabbi’s hut and ran to gather his fellow monks together to tell them what the rabbi had said. “One of us is the Messiah.”
The monks were startled by the Abbot’s words. What could it possibly mean? Is Brother John the Messiah? What about Brother Thomas? Perhaps I might be the Messiah myself?! Despite their many questions, they obeyed the Abbot’s instructions and never mentioned the rabbi’s words again.
But the words had an amazing effect upon the monastery. As time went by, the monks began to treat each other with special deference. Not knowing who might be the Messiah; each treated the other just a bit nicer than before. Visitors found themselves deeply moved by the joy and beauty found coming from the monks. And soon, people, from miles around, were coming to have their souls nourished by the atmosphere of the monastery and the monks who were there.
The community of brothers began to rebuild, joy and song once again echoed through its halls.
The rabbi was never seen again by the monks, but the monks, who took his teaching to heart, always felt his presence and so did all with whom they came in contact.
And who knows, perhaps the rabbi was the Messiah?
Perhaps you may be…and in a very real sense, perhaps you are! If so, why are you waiting?