Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Gog & Magog

It's been almost 32 years since I didn't chant my Haftorah portion for my Bat Mitzvah...a mute protest for not being allowed to read from the Torah because of my gender. But the discussion of the story of Gog and Magog I had with my rabbi, as chaos versus cosmos, held me rapt.

This story from the book of Ezekiel at first seemed depressing and war-filled. He encouraged me to see the metaphors, the bigger picture. People had a choice to devolve into chaos and destroy all that is good in the world, or we could work toward attaining a whole, more perfect world--the messianic era.

Rabbi K., the sole survivor of a German farming family wiped out by the Nazis, had studied with Martin Buber; he had escaped to Switzerland during World War II and came to the United States. He even lived in Jerusalem for a time. A man of peace, Rabbi K was invited to the Rose Garden by President Jimmy Carter for the famous handshake between Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat.

His Friday night sermons often included references to the Talmud, Josephus Flavius, Maimonedes, Spinoza, as well as the great philosophers and scientists of the Twentieth Century. I remember sitting in the sanctuary on Shabbat, watching the light play on the stained glass rectangles behind the ark and the eternal flame, feeling my mind expand. He wrote two books, The Age of Idolism and Whence comes Evil?

Because I was interested in justice, he guided me toward the writings of Ahad Ha'am, the Israeli who was for living side-by-side in peace with his neighbor. We also discussed Plato and Eric Hoffer's works.

Now, in the season of introspection and renewal, I am again thinking of my unchanted portion and others who have evoked this war of Gog and Magog, most recently George W. Bush. His mistake has cost many dearly.

And with the current Holocaust-denying president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, stirring the pot of hatred, it's clear he wants to perpetuate the disharmony between the people of the world. Denying the truth of people's real suffering leads to more...and maybe that's what Ahmadinejad intends. Disinformation leads to chaos. It's scary.

Some see death and destruction as a mutual way to take down "the enemy;" others struggle to teach the necessity of harmony--if not unity.

With today's hopeful meeting between President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, I sincerely want cooler heads prevail.

Who is counting on chaos to win? Let's not allow the world sprial into that abyss.

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