One Vision to Repair the World

Dear Engaged Bystander: Yesterday and today are days to celebrate Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year.   It is usually a time for contemplation -- looking back at the mistakes of the past year and planning for changes to make in the New Year. In celebrating this holiday, I like to also think about what was good about the past year and to think about what to bring into my life (our lives) for the future. 

There is a commentary about the Jewish New Year that says, “Imagine that the world is teetering between good and evil, and your actions will tip the scales.”   This quote speaks eloquently to the responsibility that each of us hold to make the world a better place – to help heal the world. 
 
Here is a story that Craig Latham, a friend and colleague once shared with me that speaks to this very question.  The story is from Rabbi Aaron Benjamin Bisno.
 
One of the traditional Jewish acts of mourning is the tearing of our clothes -- the performance of what is called kri'a -- literally tear in Hebrew. By ripping the fabric of a lapel, a pocket, a sleeve, or a black ribbon opposite our hearts, we acknowledge through a physical act of tearing, the emotional and psychic sundering death brings.
 
In response to the loss, fury and sorrow we experience as we process grief -- Jewish Tradition decrees we rend the fabric of our garments, that we might thereby be returned in some small measure to wholeness.
 
But what shall we do when it is the fabric of our society and world that is rent? What shall we do when it is the rending that is the cause of and not the response to our grief? What shall we do then? How shall we react when the way we understood the world and our place within it is today rendered unrecognizable and we cannot go back to the way it ever was? What do we tear then? And how do we begin to make our world whole again?
 
Perhaps an answer can be found in the story of the young student who found a large map of the world in the newspaper. Curious, the student took the map to his teacher. Seeing an opportunity to challenge the student, the teacher took the map of the globe and tore it into many, many pieces. Fragments of paper fell to the floor at the student's feet. And then handing over a roll of tape, the teacher challenged the student to reassemble the map of the world, and then the teacher returned to work.
 
The student dropped to the floor and, in short order, completed the assignment by correctly taping together each of the pieces of the whole of the world. Where only minutes before the image of the world we believed we had known so well was torn asunder, and strewn across the floor, now it was being offered up as an intact whole.
 
When the teacher asked the student how it had been possible to reassemble the fragmented world so quickly, the response was short and to the point: "There was a picture of a child on the back side. I put the child back together and the whole world got fixed too."
 
I know that through our individual actions and through our collaborative work, we too are helping to repair the world.
 
L’shana Tova,
Joan
 
 
 
 
 
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