Saturday, April 26, 2014

Parshat/Torah Portion Emor: At Home with High Priest Aaron and Wife Elisheva: "No One Knows What Goes On Behind Closed Tent-Flaps"

Emor

Scene: A desert tent. The sun is setting. Although Spartan in appearance, it is cozy and welcoming; there is a small pot on a cooking fire in the middle, and the smoke goes up through a center hole in the tent-roof, which can be closed in case of rain. A model altar stands in the eastern corner, with miniature clay animals set on it, as if for practice; in another corner, a small oil-lamp burns, as a Eternal Memorial Flame; above it hangs a needlepoint in Hebrew—“L’Zecher Nishmotayhem—In Loving Memory of Our Dear Boys—Nadav & Avihu.” Next to it hangs another needlepoint, “High Priests are People, Too!” and, “Please Wait Your Turn Patiently: Aaron is Always Glad to Listen to Your Issues.”

As the scene opens, Elisheva enters. She is a woman in her sixties, tall, with long, graceful arms and legs, as if she had been a dancer, which she was, years before. Her hair is dark brown, curly, with streaks of grey that she makes no attempt to hide; she is proud of her age, her strength, her classic Jewish beauty. She goes over to the pot on the cookstove, stirs the stew, tastes a little, adds some spices from the clay dish nearby. Then, she stands tall, stretches, smiles, looks slowly around the interior of her home. Her gaze lingers on the Eternal Flame flickering in the corner. She goes over, and kneels before it, checking to make certain that the wick of the lamp is sufficiently long; one gets the impression that she will instantly replace it if it does not meet with her approval. Satisfied, she moves her hands over it, slowly, gently, as if stroking the head of a child.

Elisheva (softly, at first; then louder): How long, O’ Lord? You took my boys from me, and I will never know why. What mistake did they make, (bitterly) there, at Your all-holy, almighty Altar? That morning, they were so proud, so happy—we all were—all they wanted to do was serve You…. (She looks upward, pleading) Show Your Self, O’ God—please (she moves her hands to her cheeks; tears are streaming down)—forgive me, Lord; I am but a silly woman, not knowing You; I know that You love us; surely You have told us so; my brother-in-law, Moses has told us so, but it is hard, O’ Lord (she sobs) to lose one’s baby boys, one’s flesh and blood—so very, very hard.

(While Elisheva has been speaking, the tent-flap parts, and Aaron enters. He is weary from the day’s sacrifices, and all the business of a High Priest among the People of Israel. He is older than she—early seventies, perhaps, but vigorous; short-haired, long-bearded, as befits an Israelite Elder; his bright-grey eyes fix upon her, and he knows, immediately, what she has been saying, and to Whom. He does not move to touch or hold her. Instead, he stands, still in the ash-filthy, bloody priestly garments of the day’s labors, folds his hands, bows his head, and waits. As Elisheva ends her soliloquy to God, she turns—there is little that she misses, in her home.)

Aaron (crossing to hold her in his arms, gently): My dear—I’m so sorry.

Elisheva (pushing him away, sarcastically): Oh, Aaron—that sort of sympathy may work with the people you counsel, but I can’t, don’t, wish for it here. (She walks to the other side of the tent, still weeping, and looking at the Eternal Flame.) And you said you would be home when the sun touched the edge of our tent-peg, and Son Itamar called the people to Evening-Psalms—but that was at least two hours’ time ago—the stew is just about burnt; you may eat it alone, for I will not. (She goes to curl up, catlike, on a large pillow in the corner, and turns her head away from him.)

(Aaron sighs; his being late is an old flashpoint of theirs. He holds out his arms to her, thinks better of it, instead crosses to the water-bowl, and washes the ashes and blood of the sacrifices off his face, before continuing, trying to change the subject:)

Aaron: I saw young Ramiel and his wife Sapirit today; they seemed happier than before I counseled them yesterday. That is the reason I am late; I was hurrying home, and they chased after me. What am I to do, Elly-melly? I am but one man, one High Priest, and all of Israel seek me out for help and advice. (He dries his face on the towel that hangs by the bowl, looks to her, smiling like a boy who has been reproved by his mother, trying to reconcile.)

Elisheva: I note that your brother Moses took the advice of his Midianite father-in-law, Jethro—who is also a High Priest of his tribe—and appointed both judges and under-judges to help him determine whether a dove or a rooster is kosher, whether Ploni’s bull trampled the manna-share of Almoni, his next-door-neighbor—perhaps you could, at least, ask your own sons Eleazar and Itamar, who are priests as well, to take some of the burden off of you, by taking on some of the less-pressing counseling cases. Don’t I count for anything in your life, Aaron? Am I not as important as that ne’er-do-well, Ramiel, and his half-Egyptian spouse?

Aaron: She’s only a quarter-Egyptian, and (a glare from Elisheva makes him change his tone)—you’re right, as usual. I will speak to our boys. There is no reason why they can’t handle the younger folks, when it comes to giving advice. But what if it’s (uncomfortably) women’s, uh, uh—

Elisheva: --Issues? Like niddah, time of the month, that sort of thing?

Aaron: Um, um—yes, of course, that. That, uh, um, spotting business.

Elisheva: Then, it’s all simple. What about Eleazar and Itamar’s wives, Renana and Nagida? They are both intelligent women; both are mothers, both skilled in midwifery.

Aaron: Those girls? What do they know?

Elisheva (exaggerated sigh, rolling her eyes): Oh, Aaron—you should spend more time with your family, and less with those sheep and goats you are always slaughtering! Just the other day, Renana was telling me about how Miriam, our sister-in-law, was teaching Hilchote Ha-Mishpacha, Family Laws and Customs, to the womenfolk. Miriam has been quietly schooling all of our ladies in proper conduct, when to go to mikvah, the ritual bath, and all the important rules.

Aaron: Uh—does my brother know about this?

Elisheva (sniffs slightly): Your brother—your high, exalted brother. Moses. I do love and honor your brother, Aaron, but, just as you are up to your priestly crown in livestock and advice-giving, he is all full of worries over Korach, Datan, Aviram, and that lot of rebels. I believe he will be trying to negotiate with them next: bunch of nincompoops—I’d negotiate with ‘em with a whip in my hand, I would—let ‘em return to Egypt, and to Osiris with the lot of ‘em! Between that and getting prophecy from the Mysterious One, I doubt your precious brother has any time left to study Torah, let alone teach it. You and he should thank the Holy One for the women in your life—women like myself, and your daughters-in-law, and your very own big sister, Mimi. What exactly do you think we do all day? Scrub your smelly laundry, and yearn for our big, strong husbands to come home and embrace us? Honestly, Aaron! Do you know you’re going to be a grandfather, soon? Nagida’s in her third month, already. Hm?

Aaron: What? Why—why—that’s wonderful! And now—see here, Elly—you know that—that--—everything I do—you know that I do it for—

Elisheva: --Except when you’re not around, and I do the advising for you. And Renana and Nagida cover for your two boys, when folks come ‘round to make offerings, and there’s something amiss with their livestock—broken hoof, cracked horn, or some such. It’s all family; I thank (she hesitates, looking at the Flame) God, for our family. Too bad about Tsiporah and Moses, though—

Aaron (trying to recover his dignity) Now, Elly, don’t blame that on me! I did try to bring about a reconciliation, you know—

Elisheva: Yes, but no one is superhuman—not even your precious Moses. I almost feel sorry for him—you know, Aaron, your brother is spending altogether too much time in heaven, with the Mysterious One, when he ought to be paying more attention to his family on earth—and you know what, Aaron dear? For a prophet, I don’t believe that he’s even aware of his family—unlike you….

Aaron (finally realizing): Because I’m lucky. To have you in my life. Thank you, Elisheva, and God Bless You.

Elisheva (smiling): Yes. That’s a beginning. You’re Welcome.

Aaron (reaching for her, as she rises): My dear—

Elisheva (Putting a finger to his lips): Not yet (pointing to the Eternal Flame)—we must say the Parents’ Mourning Prayer for our poor dear boys, as we do, every evening—

Aaron: You are right. (They hold hands and stand together before the Flame, as the light fades) O’ dear God, how blessed but sad we are….



Sunday, April 20, 2014

Holiness and Headlines: Parshat/Torah Portion Kedoshim in the World

Kedoshim


            Kedoshim means, “You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Lev. 19:2). This parsha/Torah reading lists some of the mitzvote/commandments which are most crucial to the proper functioning of society, not only for us Jews, but the world in general. Despite our great scientific and technological advancements, we have, in view of this Torah portion, “been weighed in the balance and found wanting” (Daniel 5:27). I am taking the liberty of contrasting these eternal truths with some of today’s headlines. Judaism is not an ivory-tower faith; it was meant to change the world. Moses struck down an evil taskmaster; Elijah and Elisha berated wicked kings.
            “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I the Lord am your God” (Lev. 19:9-10).
                “Palestinians reported that more than 100 olive trees were uprooted in the Krayot village, south of Nablus in the West Bank. Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors [Israeli] settler activities in this area of the West Bank on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, blamed settlers from the settlement Ali. The Palestinian Authority said that settler aggression and vandalism, specifically the destruction of olive trees and groves, has increased in recent weeks, as the harvest season started” (Haaretz.com, 10/19/2013).
            “You shall not defraud your fellow. You shall not commit robbery. The wages of a laborer shall not remain with you until morning” (Lev. 19:13).
            “The two biggest welfare queens in America today are Wal-Mart and McDonald's.
This issue has become more known as we learn just how far some companies have gone in putting their employees on public assistance. According to one study, American fast food workers receive more than $7 billion dollars in public assistance. As it turns out, McDonald's has a “McResource” line that helps employees and their families enroll in various state and local assistance programs. It exploded into the public when a recording of the McResource line advocated that full-time employees sign up for food stamps and welfare. Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private sector employer, is also the biggest consumer of taxpayer-supported aid. According to Florida Congressman Alan Grayson, in many states, Wal-Mart employees are the largest group of Medicaid recipients. They are also the single biggest group of food stamp recipients. Wal-mart’s ‘associates’ are paid so little, according to Grayson, that they receive $1,000 on average in public assistance. These amount to massive taxpayer subsidies for private companies” (Barry Ritholtz, “How McDonald’s and Wal-Mart Became Welfare Queens,” Bloomberg.com, 11/13/2013).
“You shall not render an unfair decision; do not favor the poor or show deference to the rich; judge your kinsman fairly. …I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:15-16).
            “The Supreme Court continued its abolition of limits on election spending, striking down a decades-old cap on the total amount any individual can contribute to federal candidates in a two-year election cycle. The ruling, issued near the start of a campaign season, will very likely increase the role money plays in American politics” (The New York Times, 4/2/2014).
            “You shall not hate your brother in your heart. …Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:17-18).
            “Israel is fulfilling its moral imperative by providing humanitarian aid in its territory to Syrians, most of whom have been injured during the cruel civil war in their own country, with more than 130,000 killed and at least two million displaced.  Over 700 Syrians have been received by Israel, and they have undergone medical treatment within Israel itself. The Syrians, among them adults, children, and fighters, are receiving that treatment in Israeli hospitals in Safed, Nahariya, Tiberias, and Haifa, as well as in the military field hospital on the Israeli-Syrian border in the Golan Heights.  It is particularly ironic that the 230 Syrians currently being treated in Safed are receiving medical care in the Rebecca Sieff Hospital, named after the great feminist and Zionist leader who was the co-founder and president of the Women's International Zionist Organization (WIZO).  Another irony is the fact that the hospital now helping them was hit in 2006 by Katyusha rocket fire from Hezbollah forces, presently strong allies of President Bashar Assad.  That attack damaged the infrastructure of the hospital and injured a number of people.” (Michael Curtis, “On Israeli Humanitarian Aid to Syrians,” americanthinker.com, 2/11/2014).
            “I, the Lord, am your God who freed you from the Land of Egypt. You shall faithfully observe all My laws and all My rules: I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:36-37).
            Having read the above list of God’s commandments, most of which remain unfulfilled, it would be easy to grow cynical and depressed over the follies of humanity, rather than resolve to work for tikkun—rectification of our ills. What should inspire us?
            Many of our most popular tefillote/prayers are alphabetically-based, among them, the Vidui, or Confession of Sins, which we recite on Yom Kippur (Ashamnu, Bagadnu, Gazalnu, etc.—“We abuse, we betray, we are cruel,” etc.) Why? According to Reb Itzikl, the Chasidic Rebbe of Vorke (1779-1848), it is “So we can choose at which letter to stop—to cry and moan endlessly is wrong; it is not the way that leads to God. Joy and gratitude are also important parts of life—we are all God’s children, and to forget this is the worst of sins!” (quoted in Elie Wiesel, Somewhere a Master: Further Hasidic Portraits & Legends, NY: Summit Books, 1981, p. 193)
            As we conclude Pesach and continue our Omer-road trek towards Sinai to receive the Holy Torah, let us resolve to learn Torah—not only to study, but also to practice it, to correct the ills of our country and our World.
           
           



Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Word from Pharaoh Ramesses II; or, The Passover Exodus, Revisited



Scene: 1256 BCE. Abu Simbel, the majestic display of colossal statues in the Egyptian Valley of the Kings. The elderly Pharaoh Ramesses II, aged 91, sits in a wheelchair in the Ramesseum, gazing at a brand-new portrait of himself in his royal chariot, single-handedly turning back a Hittite invasion.

            It is warm here, as the setting sun warms the sandstone, and good for an old man’s chilled bones. I have asked them to leave me here a while. They think me a god, and, truly, I wish I were one, but my closest servants, those who have waited on me for all these years, know the fits and starts this aged flesh is heir to. I’m almost 92 suns old, and have reigned longer than any other Pharaoh—one wonders what the gods have in store for me, as yet….
            (Aloud:) Leave me here a bit, Royal Artist Nefer-ke. I will gaze upon your battle portrait of me. You have done good work. Seti? See he is richly rewarded. Good, good. (Claps his hands, weakly) Now, go, all of you. I will call you when I am done looking upon it. (Sighs)
            There, there I stand, alone, in my chariot—I understand the painter’s style, why he made me so enormous, off to the left of the painting, my enemies tiny before me—imagine! (chuckling to himself) In my youth, I was, apparently, able to both drive two spirited horses, reins tucked into my belt, and fire arrow upon arrow at the Hittites, all alone? And see, there! There! The puny, clambering Hittites fall from the battlements, like ants boiling from an anthill in the desert wastes, when one pours a pot of boiling water over it—what a fantastic imagination that Nefer-ke must have—hee! Hee! He makes an old man laugh….
            Let me remember—it was a hot day; astonishingly hot, even beneath the flapping sheets of my royal pavilion—I wore kohl on my godly brows, I recall, and was so nervous that the sweat was making the infernal stuff melt and run into my eyes, and sting: who in Osiris’s name wears kohl into battle? That was my dear Nefertari’s idea, dear Nefertari—she had wanted to come to the battle with me, as if it were a picnic—dear, silly girl; ah, how we made those pavilion walls flap and dance, all the night long….
            But the Hittite King Muwatallis, that fox, had laid his troops in ambush, and was waiting for me—luckily, I had my four divisions, all named after gods, just so: Amon, Re, Ptah, and Set. Never hurts to have the gods on one’s side. And my lieutenant—what was his name? Takelot? No: Nimlot? Never trust an old man’s memory—had captured those two Hittite spies, and was busy torturing them—they told us some information, but not much; they were plants, and we were fools; we believed we were invincible, so we were—we had no idea that the Hittite Army was so much larger than ours—perhaps that was a good thing, in the end.
For, when they struck—nearly 40,000 men and 2,500 chariots, horse and foot, more than double our force, we blew apart like feathers before a hamseen—I myself might have been killed or captured, but for the valor of my Pharaoh’s Own Guard, bless ‘em all, poor dead boys, and Menna, my shield-bearer. And Re was with me that day, too: my Pharaoh’s Guard came up a different route, and flanked the Hittites, striking them to the core. Ha! Old Muwatallis retreated, and we kept the field that night.
(Yawns) What’s that, Captain? Slow down. Speak up. Who? Oh, Moses—that Hebrew, again? Something about—the cattle dying, over in Goshen? Well, what is it the Hebrews want, blast their lazy hides? (Listens) Well, if they leave, do we have ample workers to take their place? What of the Amorite prisoners of war? Hm. Did I not say to let the Hebrews go? You say I did, but Merneptah my son—
(Thinks) Now, here’s a how-de-do: I say I’m Pharaoh, but Merneptah, that scamp—how old is he, now? Sixty-something? Old enough, you’d think, to take command, and leave me be to do some—some—art-gazing, here, but no—
What’s that? Someone’s sick? My grandson, Seti, Merneptah’s boy? Oh, that is too bad. (But then, I’ve got so many grandkids; eight wives, I think, and other haremites will do that sort of thing.) His boy is dead? Merneptah wants to let them go? So let them go.

Come, Seti; wheel me out. The light’s too dark to see the walls, and I am tired. Did I ever tell you about the time how we hung the fleeing Prince of Aleppo upside down? He was running away from us, and had fallen into the Orontes River, y’see, and we fished him out, near drowned; it’s quite a story….

Peter Clayton, "Chronicle of the Pharaohs: The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Rulers & Dynasties of Ancient Egypt," London: Thames & Hudson, 1994.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Teaching Othello in South Florida: Imagine Gen. Colin Powell Marries Mila Kunis; or, Shakespeare in a Multicultural Environment



            I had a choice between teaching Shakespeare’s Hamlet (which I am familiar with from my undergraduate days) or Othello, and chose the latter, despite never having had taught it before. This particular English Lit Survey college class is made up completely of Hispanic- and African-Americans, both native and Haitian-American, and, once having established my own racial and tribal identity—semi-elderly white Jewish man, from New York City—we set to work.
            The tragic story line of Othello is fairly simple, since there is very little physical action or comedy to relieve the stifling, verbal tension of rumor and gossip which gradually encircles and chokes off the leading characters: a Moorish general, Othello, working to defend Venice from  Turkish attackers, meets, falls in love with, and marries, a young white girl, Desdemona, unbeknowest to her family. His “ancient,” (standard-bearer, major-domo, trusted right-hand-man), Iago, secretly hates him, and so plots with various other characters to accuse Desdemona of cuckolding him. Othello, highly skilled at war but little in the Machiavellian machinations of romance or court politicking, falls into his trap of plots and counter-plots; the play ends tragically and bloodily, in the finest Elizabethan style. Here is Othello’s closing speech:

                                    When you shall these unlucky deeds relate,
                                    Speak of me as I am. …Then must you speak
                                    Of one that loved not wisely, but too well.
                                                                                    (V:2, ll. 357-360)

            I stress to the class that, while interracial dating and marriage are normal here in South Florida—and, I hope in other parts of America as well—it was not so in early 17th-Century England. Shakespeare, reacting to the Age of Exploration, when Englishmen returned to the home island with all manner of new and unheard-of plants, animals, and humans, chose a Moor as his leading character, not only to explore the issue of racism, but also to introduce an air of exoticity into his play. I briefly mention his other play dealing with the presence of the Mysterious Other, The Merchant of Venice, as well as Christopher Marlowe’s “Barabbas, the Jewe” in The Jewe of Malta (1589-90), which, if anything, is far more racist and bloody than Shakespeare’s play, which gave, at least, some dimensionality and compassion to Shylock.
            It is significant that modern critics suggest that, perhaps, Othello was not an African; he may have been an Arab, which would lay upon our comprehension an even more significant layer of cultural differentness, given the particular position of Muslims (or Arab Christians) in both American and world culture and society.
            What do we learn from Othello, as an older man (even older, given the life expectancy in Shakespeare’s day—if one lived to be fifty, that was considered “old”) married to a young woman, laying aside the racial differences? Consider, I tell them, the possibility of Gen. Colin Powell married to Mila Kunis—a fantasy, to be sure, but a necessary cultural touchstone for them. We learn from the play that this is no mere spring-autumn romance; indeed, Desdemona herself states that she pursued Othello:

That I did love the Moor to live with him, 
My downright violence and storm of fortunes
May trumpet to the world: my heart's subdued
Even to the very quality of my lord: 
I saw Othello's visage in his mind, 
And to his honour and his valiant parts
Did I my soul and fortunes consecrate. 
                                                            (I, iii, ll. 248-254)

            As for Iago’s treachery, the text gives no hint as to why Othello gave him the lesser promotion of ancient, favoring rather an untried, bookish soldier, Cassio, with the position of lieutenant. I tell the class to compare Iago with any back-stabbing ex-friend they may have ever known, who will ignore anyone’s feelings or fortunes, so long as they get what they want. Sadly, this hidden enemy will play the friend, burrowing into one’s personal life and learning both one’s secrets and hidden weaknesses, and waiting to strike when one’s defenses are down.

            The greatness of Shakespeare, added to the challenge of communicating his 16th-Century diction, is that his concerns are universal. He lived during the age of a queen who was surrounded by enemies known and unknown, when men willingly went to war over their faith, even over so petty a matter as to whether the church communion table stood in the front or to the side of the sanctuary. We Americans have no state church, but we are still, for good or ill, the inheritors of English style, custom, and literature. It is both an honor and challenge for me to convey the eternal truths of Western Civilization to these eager and searching minds. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Acharay Mote (After the Death {of Aaron's Two Sons}, Meeting The Holy, and Ending with a Pesach Blessing, for an Age of No-Peace

Acharay Mote

            A large part of the Book of Leviticus deals with holiness—an enigmatic spiritual topic which fascinated our ancestors, and continues to be difficult to define. This parsha/Torah portion begins by recounting the deaths of Nadav and Avihu, the two oldest sons of Aaron, the Kohen Gadol/High Priest, who met untimely deaths while performing a religious service before God, for reasons still uncertain. Later in Scripture, we find also the case of Uzzah, who, during King David’s triumphant procession to Jerusalem, reaches out to the Holy Ark to steady it on its wagon when the pulling ox-team stumble. For his impertinence in physically touching the Ark, God strikes him dead (II Samuel 6:6-7). Coming too close to the Holy with improper intent or physicality may, we learn, lead to catastrophe, and, often, death.
            For our ancestors, therefore, holiness meant an energy-center whose misuse or misapprehension could be dangerous. It is noteworthy that the Ark was a wooden box, coated inside and out with gold, making it a powerful conductor of electricity—Uzzah might have been electrocuted. What meaning can we moderns find in this labyrinthine religious concept of holiness?
            Over the course of our lives, we come into contact with the Holy many, many times—it can be a physical connection, as when we touch and kiss the Torah scroll when an honoree carries it around the sanctuary. (I have heard from congregants what a wonderful thrill they get, to be the literal “bearers” of this supreme mitzvah/commandment, allowing their fellow Jews to touch, caress, and kiss our eternal treasure.)
The Torah is such an awesome source of holiness that it can never become unholy or tameh, the word meaning “impure” in the spiritual sense. Back in the 1980’s, when Conservative temples nationwide were debating whether to allow women onto the bema/podium for an aliyah/Torah honor, I often pointed out that the Torah is so holy, in and of itself, that it cannot possibly become tameh/impure. This was the chief reason of the anti-feminist camp, who conveniently ignored that men, as well as women, ought to visit the mikvah/ritual bath prior to Shabbat and major holidays, or following a nocturnal emission. Seen in this light, the Torah is an enormous spiritual storage battery, containing enough “religious energy” to radiate outward onto us, its adherents, and change our lives in meaningful ways, through studying it.
            We encounter the Holy at lifecycle events, as well, whether at baby-naming ceremonies, b’nai mitzvah, weddings, and even funerals. We marvel at the swift passage of time, and use these holy gatherings to slow down our lives and acknowledge God’s myriad visits to His earthly realm. One must have a heart of holiness to detect God’s Presence in one’s life. When we decide what our life’s purpose will be, when we decide where we will live and with whom, God tips the decision for the good, and this is holiness. In the words of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “Earth’s crammed with heaven/ And every common bush afire with God;/ But only he who sees, takes off his shoes./ The rest sit ‘round and pick at blackberries.”
            And now, once again, Pesach has come. With your permission, Readers, I will offer this blessing:
Dear God: as we enter Your Holy Season of Pesach, recounting the passage of Your People from slavery to freedom, help us not to become entrapt in the details of kitniyote/beans, the criminally high price of Paysadik/Kosher-for-Passover provender, or the myriad minutiae of transforming one’s house, nay one’s soul, into a fitting Mishkan/dwelling-place, for You—
            Rather, we pray that, on this blue-white planet, this erring orb on which so many of Your children fail to see that we are all, all of us, made in Your image, refusing to consider making even a shred of peace with one another—
            That You will turn to us in comfort and love. Help us to reach out, beyond the bonds of matzah and bitter herb, charoset and parsley, dew-prayers (the visible sign of Your Grace) and Omer-reckonings,
            To a new Spring of the Spirit—and may We Jews, as well as our Neighbors of all Faiths and of no-faith, join together to raise a new temple to You, and to beckon—just beckon, mind You—a bit of Your Spirit, down, upon us, and our families and friends. Amen v’Amen. Selah.