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126http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2012/12/Rabbi-Lyon%27s-Blog---12_21_2012
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 12_21_2012
12/19/2012 12:00 AM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
December 21, 2012

 

Although I’m writing this message a few days before December 21st, I have every confidence that the world will still be here by the time this message arrives to you. What’s more, I am confident that I will be at synagogue on Friday night to lead worship services and deliver my sermon. I am not dismissing the Mayan culture and the belief system to which their people adhered; but, I am deeply skeptical of their projections about the end of days. Thankfully, we live on Jewish standard time, so I’m keeping my commitments on December 22nd, as well.

                End-of-world and end-of-days have captured the attention of every generation since we have read of them in the Bible, both Hebrew and Christian. Their apocalyptic scenarios are filled with so much fire and brimstone that they even make thrilling backdrops for Hollywood movies. But, anyone who lays their money down on the date is a fool. Even in recent years, too many self-proclaimed prophets have packed their bags in preparation of the date of doom, only to be sorely embarrassed by their premature calculations. They can reset the date just so many times before “Oops” disqualifies them permanently.

                In the short span that is our lifetime, my fear has never been that the world will end in a cataclysmic event. In the story of Noah, Genesis 5, God promises never to destroy the world by water, again. The rainbow is the Biblical sign God set over the earth to reflect God’s “Brit Shalom” or covenant of peace. But, our commentators wisely discerned that while God will not destroy the earth, it doesn’t preclude the possibility that human beings might be up to the task. During the Cold War of the past, the threat of nuclear war was punctuated by the power human beings had either to destroy the world or to save the world. Likewise, today we harness the same power either to despoil or renew the earth’s resources. It isn’t up to God; it’s up to us.

                Though I don’t believe the world will end in a horrific fire ball, I do believe that the world I used to know has ended many times. For example, the world of my childhood is gone. Nothing remains of it except the few people who were there and the souvenirs I kept. The world when I was a single man is gone. My wife and four children have made up my world far longer than I have known it without them. And, the world with my father is over, too. Memories of him restore only parts of times and places that can never be fully discovered again. I don’t mourn the past. It was part of who I have become; rather, I live in the world that is here and now.

                By acknowledging the world as it was and as it is, also prepares you and me to participate in building a world that ought to be. The future is not in God’s hands to fashion for us; rather, God fashioned us to build the future. The world is our proverbial oyster and we can do with it whatever we wish. It is this power, the power that God entrusts to us, that terrifies me. There isn’t a shred of evidence that God has threatened us or the earth, at least not since Biblical references to the Flood; but, there are innumerable accounts of human efforts to threaten the earth and its inhabitants. So many affronts to humankind all but prove that we are incapable of learning from the past, and that we will live up to familiar expectations to repeat them.

                Last week’s tragedy in Connecticut is, unfortunately, not the first or last time our nation will know bloodshed. But, the horror that consumed the lives of innocent children awakened us to the depths of destructive human behavior and to the obligation we have to address it. If it’s guns, then we must agree to better laws. If it’s mental illness, then we must commit to identify, help or secure the most severe individuals. It is our duty to each other and also to God, to establish the world we have long been entrusted to build.

                On the tragic morning of December 14th, the earth wasn’t destroyed, but many worlds ended. This week, December 21st raises an ominous sign for some, but only for those who don’t believe in the power that God already created within them. I don’t fear external evil temptations. I only fear that I can’t harness the power within me to foster hope in a world I share the responsibility to build with you. Perhaps if we all work together, we can join hearts and hands to make a difference in our short lifespan for the sake of future generations who will inherit from us a world we will never even know. How should we begin?

From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom.

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