December 5, 2014 admin

Have we not all the same parent?

Nobody gets away with having just one identity and it isn’t good for the soul.
I’m deeply Jewish (no surprises there.) I was born to it, others chose it; I love it just the same. Looking out on the red sunrise, it’s natural to me to think of the words of the morning blessing, ‘You fashion light and create darkness’, to express my joy and wonder, felt with an enthusiasm only slightly less than that of my dog, who’s urging me to hurry up and get out for a walk, in the classic formulation of my faith.
I could take Rupert Brooke’s poem, ‘These I have loved’ and turn it all to Jewish subjects: These I have loved, the smell of challah freshly baked; the trembling touch of my grandfather’s hands in blessing; the melodies of the Kaddish for each and every holyday; the sight and smell of an old page of Talmud, the paper imbued with the discipline of devoted generations; the tightness of Tefilin wound around my arm and bound against my heart.
These things I love, and teach. It may be as deep an instinct to want to inculcate into one’s children the manner in which one respects, engages and rejoices with life, as it is for a duck to teach ducklings how to swim across a rapid current.  These skills and responses are the essence of one’s identity, faith and very way of being. I’m no believer in the notion that such teaching is necessarily indoctrination (though it can become so) and that it’s a sin to offer children anything other than an uncommitted ‘try a bit of everything and choose’ interface with the world.
I’ll say nothing about the parts of me, which, due to parentage, where I was born and where I’ve lived, feel a wee bit Scottish, deeply European, rather English, and very attached to Israel.
But I must speak about the universal in me, and within us all. The fact that I have a specific language and discipline in which to express my sensitivities, ethical, spiritual, emotional, physical, does not mean that what I feel is intrinsically different from what a Muslim, Christian, Hindu or atheist feels. The heart may be developed by the path it follows, but it remains a human heart. When they prick us, we all bleed; when they kick us we all feel hurt. Where there is pain, we all keep silence, or weep; where there is wonder, we feel reverence and joy. When confronted with wrong, there are basic universal moral laws we must all be taught to obey.
‘Have we not all the same parent?’ declared the prophet. That’s what’s so remarkable, the Mishnah explains: everyone is made in the same divine image, and yet every person is unique.
Unique, yet equal; distinctive, yet the same; deeply myself, yet no less or more human than everyone else: this balance must govern our individual self-awareness, the values which govern our actions and teaching, the ethos of communities of faith, and the life of nations.
We are deeply ourselves, and deeply universal; our country must also be deeply Jewish, and deeply and essentially open, plural and democratic. That in itself is part of its Jewishness.

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