The High Holy Days are coming, and some of the verses we read for Yom Kippur are previewed in this week’s reading: The laws of God are not in the heavens, or across the sea, they are very near to us, in our hearts.
But how could laws from God not be in heaven?
A fabulous G-dcast cartoon, with music by Eliana Light , animates a famous Talmudic tale. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=al4FgjbUztI about a court dispute about whether an oven was kosher. One man, Rabbi Eliezar had a special connection to God, but Rabbi Gamliel, Eliezar’s brother in law, disagreed. Miracles from heaven backed up Eliezar: a tree uprooted, a stream flowed backwards, the building almost crushed! But another Rabbi, Yehoshua, said: miracles are irrelevant, these are laws for us down here!
Heaven doesn’t need laws, we need them: within our hearts for wholeness, and in the charged up spaces between us for peace and wholeness as a community. But don’t we want deep truth to rule our laws? And why would the Talmud reject divine inspiration and intervention as a pathway to that truth? I’m not sure, perhaps because we could run into the quicksand of zealots who are misguided or devious, and it’s too hard for us to tell the difference! So, we must figure it out logically and by engaging with dialogue with one another; outside miracles are no fair!
And yet ideologues in government continue to refuse to engage with the other side, thinking their answer is in heaven. But don’t we want those who stand up for principles? Yup, but it can’t only be in heaven, when we live it down here on earth.
This week, of course, marks the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. King’s march on Washington. Was Martin an ideologue? Well, he said famously the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice, and referenced a day when righteousness will flow like a mighty stream, and saw himself, like Moses as one who would not get to the promised land. But he put himself out there in dialogue with many, including many Jews who marched with him and helped craft Civil Rights amendment. He stretched out his neck and engaged at risk of his life. He taught us about first steps, and crawling toward a dream if you cannot fly. I offer this link to David Berger’s Martin’s Dream sung by Zamir Chorale of New York http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djpASrrtnTM