A Prayer and a Commandment

כי תעביר ממשלת זדון מן הארץ                                                                      צדק צדק תרדוף Justice, Justice pursue”                   “Remove the wicked kingdom from the earth”

Remove the wicked kingdom from the earth” is one the many supplications that we offer during the High Holidays. It articulates hope for a redeemed world, for a new dispensation in which primal goodness is restored and all life is realigned with H’. Its envisages a new age, though one whose fulfillment is not possible within the familiar continuum of past, present and future, for it exists outside of time; we cannot predict the moment of its arrival, nor may we organize our lives on the assumption that its advent is close. But neither may we desist from yearning for it.

Justice, Justice pursue,” on the other hand, is a commandment from the Torah that we confront that wicked kingdom Continue reading “A Prayer and a Commandment” »

A Journey from Rosh Ha-Shanah to Yom Kippur (and back)

We enter Rosh HaShanah with a powerful awareness that H’ is Other; the liturgy insistently employs the image of King, a majestic, all-powerful being that governs our destinies, weighs us in the balance, is unpredictable in judgments, and is barely approachable. The gulf is almost unbridgeable.

יהוה מלך

Ten days later, the Yom Kippur services conclude with the exultant cry, repeated seven times, “H’ is All,*” in which we proclaim the Unity of all Being. God and the world, Creator and Creation, are One. The veils are gone.

Continue reading “A Journey from Rosh Ha-Shanah to Yom Kippur (and back)” »

Coming Back, Going Forward

הֲשִׁיבֵנוּ יְהֹוָה אֵלֶיךָ וְנָשׁוּבָה
Hashiveinu, H’, veNashuvah

“Bring us back to you, H’, and we will return”

[Lamentations 5:21, Regular prayers, with special significance on the High Holidays]

Hashiveinu (“Bring us back”) is a call for input from beyond, asking for an affirmation, hoping for a sign, some kind of spiritual experience: Bring us back, awaken us, remind us, shine your light upon us, show us your face.

veNashuvah (“and we will return”) is the daily work, integrating the experience: returning, remaining awake, remembering, every day, every minute of every day.

We are rarely transformed by our spiritual experiences or insights. However powerful they may be, they are only signposts, ephemeral events; nevertheless, they can, and should, inform our being.

More “Prayerbook Musings”

This Year’s (Heretical) Passover Greeting

May this Passover mark a season in which we not only leave behind our slavery but actively strive to forget it, shed its scars, erase memories of wounds real and imaginary,

let us tell no stories of personal griefs or tribal nightmares,

let us greet this day unencumbered by past burdens and future plans, remembering only:
This very day did Yah create, rejoice in it!

and let us eradicate from our Haggadah the passage, “In every generation they rise up to destroy us.”


!חג שמח

Online viewing of “Mystical Experience” Panel

Many correspondents reported difficulties receiving the broadcast of “The Mystical Experience,” a panel discussion on the nature of mysticism in which I participate together with Brother David Steindl-Rast and Maata Lynn Barron. It can now be viewed online.

If you do not have time or patience to spend an hour looking at the whole program, here are some interesting clips: Illusory God; Questioning the Mystical Experience; and The Mystical Experience & the Sacred Use of Drugs.

After viewing, you are invited to share your thoughts and observations under “Leave a comment” below.

A Military Family

My grandson Daniel has just concluded his final weeks in the IDF, sweltering in a bunker on the Golan Heights during this summer’s heatwave. He remarked, in a posting on his Face Book page “I’m witnessing a Syrian fox making aliyah… Welcome to Israel… You’re in a mine-field…”

I can easily visualize the scene.

Fifty-four years ago, at the end of October 1956, during the Suez campaign, I was lying in a shallow dugout at the perimeter of our position just west of the Jordan river, facing the Golan Heights. We were on guard against a possible attack by Syrian commandos. At two or three in the morning, after hours of boredom, I froze, sensing a rustling in the nearby thickets. I reached out to my sergeant to alert him. After a moment he chuckled. “It’s only a wildcat,” he said. “Welcome to the Holy Land.” Continue reading “A Military Family” »

Three Whitenesses

1. A few days after returning from a vacation in the Yosemite National Park, I dreamt that I was sitting by a large window in a train traveling through mountainous, alpine terrain. The landscape outside was blanketed with snow, flat and white, featureless except for two receding parallel ribbons of black, the railroad tracks. A moment of terror: did this vision presage the blank mind of plaque and tangled neurons? Then gradually forms emerged: the faint shining disk of the sun, jagged peaks etched on a background of billowing clouds, shadowed gullies and dark ravines, and below, a winding tree-lined river. I awakened, laughing.

2. It’s June, and our regular summer guests have arrived, a pair of albino ferruginous hawks. First we hear the harsh kaa-kaa of their rasping calls, and then spot them, perched, side-by-side, on a high branch of the 50-foot eucalyptus tree in our neighbor’s yard. They spend hours circling and hovering over the meadow beneath us, occasionally swooping down and immediately soaring up again, grasping in their bloody talons some wriggling prey, usually a small mammal; last year one of them caught a snake.

3. A Midrash: After Adam/Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden the Holy One of Being prepared for them garments of rawhide. Now these are understood as representing the leather straps of the tefillin, the phylacteries, those instruments of ritual that bind us and direct us with good laws and rules of right living. This is the way we Jews are to worship on this mundane plane of exile. But before the Expulsion, while still in that place of wondrous innocence, how were Adam/Eve garbed? In cloaks of light, we are told.

Oh that I may offer my orisons wrapped in that white light from Eden! It beckons me, but today I cannot reach it. Meanwhile, those leather ribbon-straps lie before me on my desk, demanding, summoning.
Jonathan Omer-Man ©2010