Jewish& is a blog by Be’chol Lashon, which gives voice to the racial, ethnic and cultural diversity of Jewish identity and experience. The original multicultural people, Jews have lived around the world for millennia. Today, with globalism and inclusion so key in making choices about engaging in Jewish life,Jewish& provides a forum for personal reflection, discussion, and debate.
Of all the words that I heard prayed as a child during the High-Holidays, there was one prayer that stood out and puzzled me:
…may it be God’s will …that peace spread across the world, with the entire Jewish people…
I wondered who were the “entire Jewish people” (Klal Yisroel) in the “world” (Olam) that we were praying about. I wondered if my family was included, I wondered if my friends of mixed-race identities were included, I wondered if my friends who don’t believe in God were included, or those who identified as LGBTQ or secular were included.
Today, as an adult, I still wonder.
Moreover, the limited awareness of the world I had as a child has broadened. Wars, attacks, and brutality, how can I not doubt the possibility of a world-peace. When bombs could be falling at any moment, and when natives to lands are being exiled, and peoples are being physically and spiritually massacred, can we come together? Is there a place where we can truly respect each other?
What if, at the end of all of this, God came to the Muslims and said “You were right. The whole thing! The Koran, the holy wars, Al Aqsa…its all true!” would the Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Jews bend? Would the whole world start to go to do Haj in Mecca? would the whole world accept upon themselves the Sharia Law? What if, at the end of all of this, God came to the Christians and said “You were right. The whole thing, the Gospel, Jesus, Grace and the Trinity—Yup—True!,” would Jews and Muslims suddenly start praying in a different direction? Would the day of rest become Sunday? I know…slightly provocative, but hear me out, this idea is a little unsettling for me too.
I don’t believe that God would gather some peoples of the world for peace, at the expense of disowning the many. You know why?
Because God doesn’t discriminate; people do.
God doesn’t hold a ruler out to your torso to see how tall you are before riding the roller coaster of life, at least the God I believe in doesn’t.
God doesn’t watch your eyes to see if you are “really praying,” or if your body language gives off the impression that you care, God just doesn’t.
God doesn’t say “you’re cool, but you are not.”
But people do.
After thousands of pages of penitence and supplication, the mind, body and spirit need an opportunity to slow down, and see how God may exist in the world. The High Holidays come to an end and the holiday of Sukkot arrives.
Sukkot is also called, “The time of our rejoicing” is upon us (Zman Simchataynu), the holiday of gathering (Chag Ha’asif). Our tradition tells us to build a temporary dwelling, a sukkah. The God I believe in would build a sukkah for the entire world to dwell in, no matter what color, creed or political leaning.
The God I believe in would spread the Sukkah of Peace across the world unto everyone “like water covers the sea (Isaiah 11:9),” the God I believe in would say that love belongs to everyone and that although there were many generations of Pharaohs’ decrees, this is a generation of Abraham’s brave big tent, relentlessly opening doors for others despite how different they may be from me.
The sukkah comes to remind us of a unity beyond our wildest dreams, a unity that resonated with all peoples of all kinds, the palm branches, the citrons, everyone! Maybe that is why the holiday is called the Feast of Tabernacles, because just as the Tabernacle was a place for all peoples of all streams to stand in awe of the one Source of all, on Sukkot we dwell in the sukkah as if the high-priest dwelling in the Temple of Jerusalem (Talmud: Mesechet Sukkot 9a) fully in the presence of a loving God.