Monday, September 29, 2008

Shana Tovah

Shana Tovah is Hebrew for "A good and sweet year" and is the usual greeting for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, which is celebrated by Jews tonight and Tuesday morning this year.

As I (Orin) was headed to Temple Shaare Emeth in suburban St. Louis to play at their early service tonight, I passed the small gift shop there and saw the above in the window - a plush play set of bread, wine, and a candle.  Blessings over these items are customary at prayer and meal times in Jewish traditions - and likely where some of our earliest Christian traditions come from, of course.

It was nice to see we still share some things in common.

The Jewish new year commemorates God's creating the heavens and the earth.  The Rabbi who delivered the sermon tonight told a version of this story as part of her reflections:

Once upon a time, as God created the world, He decided to make beings in His image. As he generated his own reflection in man and woman, the angels got word of the project, and were consumed with jealousy.

"How unfair!" they cried. "Those humans will have it all. They get to experience life on earth with all the perks: laughter, tears, ice cream, wasabi, softness, scratchiness. And as if that 'being alive' stuff weren't blessing enough, they get immortality as well!" (If God is eternal, so, too, would be anything made in God's image.)

The angels were furious; no being should merit both ice cream and infinity. If heavenly beings were denied earthly experiences, why allow humans celestial ones?

So, they plotted against the humans. They decided to hide God's image from them, and assembled to determine how it could be done. One angel suggested, "Let's hide it far up in the mountains; I hear humans don't like to shvitz much. They'll never climb that high."

Another disagreed: "That won't work. Those granola hippies God put on the West Coast will surely hike to the top of the mountains and discover it. Better we hide God's image far out in the sea. Most folks won't go farther than a cruise ship will take them."

Again, others dissented. They realized that any God-like being would eventually access the heights of heaven and the depths of the ocean.

Finally, a wise old angel made a brilliant suggestion: "Let us hide God's image between and within the humans. That will be the last place on earth they would think to look for it."

God let them.  And so it was.

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