Saturday, August 05, 2006

Shabbat Shalom

(Peaceful Sabbath)

Today we went to a very moving ceremony to celebrate the Bar Mitzvah of the son of our friends Sylvia and Andre. He is their oldest child and his was the first Bar Mitzvah for quite some time on Andre's side of the family. The genuine love and affection in their extended family was abundantly obvious. Andre and Sylvia were quite visibly proud of their boy as he was passing into manhood in the eyes of their faith. Andre was so moved in the service that it took him a couple of tries to get through his blessing to his son.

The service itself was rich with symbolism and with many many repetitions of thanks for all that we are and of the devotion to God. Much of it was in Hebrew. There was the rabbi and a canter, a woman who recited prayers and led the congregation in song. She had a beautiful voice, and was clearly and tenderly helping Aaron get through all the recitations in Hebrew.

In the end Aaron read a several page long reflection on his life as a member of the reformed Jewish faith, and how he intended to integrate the teachings of the Torah in his life. It was a well written speech and delivered pretty well for a nervous thirteen year old. Is was clear that he put a great deal of thought into it.

I was moved by the whole thing and very proud for my friends who have obviously made their faith a real part of the fabric of their daily lives and that of their children. Mazel tov Aaron.

I'm still an atheist, but I have to say this was the best time I ever had in a place of worship. I had no idea what lots of things meant, and of course all the references to God were not meant for me. I don't/didn't pray or sing, but I did read along when I could and I tried to understand what was going on. There were some asides in the prayer book that made some explanations of some of the rituals, most of which was fascinating.

Near the end of the service there was a short request form one of the temple members for donations to help relief operations for people injured in the war in Israel. The political message was clear: Civilians were purposely attacked for political reasons by Hezbollah. I've never seen politics in a worship setting like that. It wasn't sugar coated or metaphorical at all. They read out the names of the soldiers and civilians that were killed this week. They used words like killed and dead.

I wish the everlasting conflict between the arabs and jews could be ended. I wish that moms and dads in that part of the world could wake up every day and raise their children in peace and teach them to tolerate and appreciate all of the others in the world, even if you didn't agree with their version of The Truth.

Tell me again, what is the purpose of all the terror and killing? Why do people talk of extermination of other people? What drives them to such hatred? Is the land that you stand on while you believe your beliefs so sacred that your god requires you to kill the others who stand on the same ground? Is the conflict really over specific plots of land, or is it that the arabs need to exterminate the jews so that... I don't even know.

It is all such an obscene waste. Money, lives, families, farms, all lost to war without end and for what? How much good could be done if all the effort and energy that went into the hatred and war and posturing and speeches and rockets and tanks and graves and coffins, could instead be put to some, ANY, constructive endeavor.

As an atheist, the conflict is especially troubling for me. I don't believe in anyone's god and that renders all their religious differences null in my mind. As far as I can tell it is senseless. I want reason to prevail, but I believe that the periodic armed conflict will continue well into the middle of the century and there will be no real peace before I die.

Shabbat Shalom, I wish.


Anonymous said...

I can't help but compare the Middle East Mess to little kids----"He hit me!", He hit me harder, so I get to hit him twice!, "He scratched me when he hit me again, so I get to....."
The only problem is, in the Middle East, the kids' toys are real bombs. So many people in the Middle East are living in the past. Yes, some bad stuff happened in the past, but you can't change the past. As the book I just finished reading said, "Do not let yesterday use up too much of today."

Anonymous said...

I find events like this such a travesty, and the My-God-is-Better-than-Your-God game complete BS.

I'm can't even begin to touch on all the religious aspect of it for I'd take up too much space on your blog!
Wonderful of you to support your friends in their celebration. =)

Rod said...

Unless a horse ran at speed through the proceedings, there was no canter.

There may have been a cantor, however.

I hate to be such a pedant - oh no, wait, that's not really true... ;->