Tag Archives: Prayer

5772

I’m a bit late on this, but better late than never. Happy New Year!

 

Now if for some reason you haven’t figured out that I’m jewish yet, this might confuse you.  Probably as much as the random seeming numbers used for this blog title.  Friends of mine who shall remain nameless will probably chide me at first for not making a title of just numbers be 1337.  But you are wrong and silly headed people.  And you know it.

 

No, 5772 is (now) the current year on the Jewish Calendar.  Traditionally the year is counting from Genesis and the first Shabbat.  No, I am not a creationist or anything like that, but I’m trying to explain some things here.

 

The Jewish Calendar is a lunar calendar, much like the arabic and the chinese calendar.  We follow the cycle of the moon because to be honest back when people started measuring time, the moon and her movements and phases was really about the only constant that you could rely on.  The sun never seemed to change, and even when the seasons shifted, it was difficult to really be precise.  At least it was about 3,000 years ago for a bunch of desert nomads.

 

Why is the Jewish/Arabic/Chinese calendars all different lunar calendars?  Well, I to be honest don’t know the answer to that.  Save for the conjecture that they were all counting from different points as the beginning or the ending.

 

This is a blog about my thoughts, think not that you will find any concrete factoids here! If you are really that curious, go look it up!  No, not on wikipedia.  Use a real encyclopedia. You know, the book version.  Some of us, if we’re lucky, actually grew up with some in our houses.  But you can still find them at libraries.  Alright fine, if you’re that desperate to know, go to wikipedia.  Sheesh.

 

But now we’re getting distracted.

 

So yes, it is New Years, or was, and the proper way to celebrate Rosh hashanah (directly translated: Rosh=Head; Ha=The; Shanah=Year. Head of the Year) is with round and sweet things.  A round Challah bread served with honey. Sliced up apples, served with honey. Pretty much anything round, and served with Honey.  Now, with most things in Jewish traditions, there are symbols here. The round challah (and everything else round) symbolizes the year continuing.  Life is an ever moving, ever continuous circle flowing seamlessly from one to the next. Apples, because in the Northern Hemisphere Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of Autumn, just when Apples are ripe and sweet.  And honey, because, well don’t you want a sweet new year?  Honey is nature’s perfect food. Sweet, liquid, and just wonderful.  Why not enjoy it on everything in sight?

 

So what happens after New Years?  Why the Days of Awe.

 

I’m not completely certain on the teachings around these 10 days, but I know what I was taught.  These 10 days are for reflecting on your place in the material world.  Rosh Hashanah is for celebrating that a new year has come, the Days of Awe are for setting yourself in order with regard to everybody around you. Find that person that you screamed at earlier and apologize to them.  Set right all the wrongs that you’ve done in the last year, at least the ones that you remember, and that you can set right, within the next ten days.  Get your material and temporal self straight so that come Yom Kippur, you are cleansed on the outside enough to face God and your inside.

 

Now we come to the big one.  Yom Kippur. Holiest of Holy Days. Highest of Holidays (other than Shabbat, but that’s a completely different discussion).

 

Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement.  This is the day that we jews go to synagogue and pray, while fasting, for forgiveness from God.  We pray for the forgiveness of our own sins, and for the sins of others. We pray for forgiveness of the sins that we have committed against one another, and for the sins that we have committed against God.  There is a prayer that is said during the night before (kol Nidre) that lists all of the sins that we are praying for, and then some the prayer is lovingly referred to as ‘Ashamnu’, as with all poems taking the first line as its title.  You pray in Hebrew, and with each word, tap your right fist against your heart.

 

Yom Kippur is a solemn Holiday, the day for reflecting on yourself and the year that has passed, and looking forward to the year coming forward.  It’s a reset button.  The last year is over, you have repented, you have apologized, you have done your best to take back for the sins that you have done.  It is time to start over again, to try and live your life better this year than you did the last.  Sometimes, in all of the hype and talk about the holiday, that bit gets lost.  A lot of people, and yes i’m guilty of this, talk about Yom Kippur and the fasting, the 24 hours of deprivation.  But it’s also 24 hours of introspection, cleansing, and it can be both solemn and joyous.

 

But I’m getting into some other territory here that is better left for another time.

 

Suffice to say that it is a New Year and I have a new outlook on life. I will be tackling the world as though it is mine already.  Ain’t nothing going to stop me now.

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History

There are few times when a person can point at something specific around them and say for absolute certain that they are watching History happen.  It happened here in the states when Barack Obama was elected.  It happened a few dozen other times in my life, the Mars Rover, the Challenger exploding, September 11, 2001, Hurricane Katrina.

 

These are all events that can be pointed at and say without a doubt that the world would be changed from them, or at least the country would be changed.  This last week or so, a little bit more than that now, something has been happening in the world that can easily be pointed to by everybody, not just Americans, and can be said “This is History”.

 

Tunisia, Sudan, Egypt.  These are not small nations. They are not small populations and they are not small deals.  Sudan is the largest country in Africa, but it was man made, carved out of the desert sands by the British after the second world war.

 

Just last month, the Sudanese voted to become two separate nations.  The more Islamic Sudan to the North, the Christian Sudan in the South.  This may seem like not so much a big deal on the outside, but once you get past the surface, you will see something amazing.  Over 98% of the population of South Sudan voted.  Ninety-eight percent.  And of that staggering amount of voters, 90% voted for independence from the North, a chance to form their own nation.  And the Northern Sudanese government agreed to the results!  So come July of this year, the cartographers will need to get out their pens and pencils and CAD programs, because there will be two nations now, where one has stood for over 50 years.

 

98%.  We can barely get 60% of our population out to vote on major issues at any given time, here in the states.  Think about that.  98% of the population (voting age and eligible to vote as a citizen) came out to vote.  What would happen in America if 98% of anybody did anything?

 

Tunisia had some riots, they overthrew the dictator and a new leader has been put in place.  It all happened so quickly that nobody really knew how to comment or what to comment or even really that it was happening until it was over.

 

Taking their cue from South Sudan and from Tunisia, the Egyptian People decided over a week ago that enough was enough, and they took to the streets.  Protests have been ongoing, intense, and dramatic, with the world of politically interested twentysomethings glued to our computer and televisions, burning for more information.

 

Protests became demonstrations and America became caught in the middle.  But that’s a different topic and not one that I am quite ready to speak on just yet.

 

Last Friday, a huge protest was planned to take place in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, after Friday prayers.  The government decided that it would be a good time to crack down, to remove the leaders of the opposition and to cause some intimidation.  They were met with resistance.

 

While the Muslim members of the protests were at prayer within their Mosques, the outsides were guarded by a human chain, a human barricade of Coptic Christians, who put themselves in between the praying Muslims and the Police of the Government.

 

They used their bodies as shields to protect people of another faith.

 

And they did so again this week, while Prayers were being said in Tahrir Square, the Christian protesters put themselves in harms way so that their Muslim compatriots could pray in peace and in safety.

 

Coptic Christians Protect Praying Muslims in Tahrir Square, Cairo

 

There are moments in time that you can point to and say, “The world changed at this time”.  And I truthfully, honestly believe that this is one of those times.  Nobody knows for certain what the outcome will be in Egypt.  Nobody knows for certain how things will go for Tunisia and for Southern Sudan.

 

But I, for one, do know that I will never forget the sight, the image burned in my mind and in my heart, of Christians protecting Muslims at prayer.  Of a people who for so long in my mind have simply been ‘Egyptians’ and/or ‘Arabs’ becoming something not quite monolithic and more nuanced.

 

I have plenty of thoughts on the political and religious ramifications and difficulties that this has brought up for me and my mind.  But they are not organized, they are not quite ready for writing down just yet, as I am still uncertain exactly how or what to say.

 

History has been made these last two weeks.  And what will happen next, nobody really knows for certain.  But it will be something rather fascinating to watch.

 

 

 

 

 

image was found via twitter and passed around many places on the internet.  I do not know the original photographer, but I can say ‘thank you’, you have helped make what could have been a dark dark story, that much lighter for many of us in the world.