I have a deep faith, a voice within me, a force that guides my every essence. It has been with me my entire life – don’t think I could exist without it! Sometimes the written words need to explode on paper.
Each year, on the High Holidays, one of my favorite passages sticks inside my gut; "When everyman shall sit beneath his fig tree, and none shall be afraid…." I just cannot release it from my thoughts.
But do we today even plant the seeds to have flourishing fig trees? Man's image of a fig tree is often a plantation, a vineyard of fruit trees. Maybe the passage should say, "When every man will not only sit but BE CONTENT WITH JUST HIS OWN FIG TREE." Isn't one tree enough? Is greed an acquired trait or is it inborn in humanity?
Many years ago, in my Brooklyn College Sociology classes, we were taught you can help people to help themselves but you cannot do it for them. Is it similar for countries? We can help patriots to help themselves but they must not only want to do it, they must have the capacities to achieve their goals. We can distribute the fig seeds, water, irrigation and nourishment but each person must cultivate their own tree and develop it the way they desire. With television and all the ambience flashed constantly on the screen, are our fig trees being nurtured with self-indulgence and gluttony?
But then I think of my mother saying, "If only in 1939 we stopped Hitler from overrunning Europe." I remember being an extremely young child the night Poland fell. We were at the World's Fair; church bells began to shriek. My mom's Polish friends started to cry hysterically. The scene and sounds of those bells have remained within me and my mother's words. "If only we stopped Hitler then." So today, how do we stop and whom do we help?
Do we need to begin right here in our own backyard? The nomination process for president was brutal. I used to recite, as a child, "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me!" Words have become like swords, guns or worse, bombs.
Recently a remark was callously stated about putting people "back in chains." Goose pimples went threw my skin. Chains create a visualization of not only slavery in the United States but oppression that we as Jews certainly can remember. The entire world is owed an apology!
And each time I see a person with a tattoo I want to go over to them and ask, "Do you know of the society that performed tattoos to identify human beings? For many of our younger generation tattoos have now become the fashion. They remind me of the arms of our people who were placed in concentration camps.
Does anyone else feel the connection? Am I too cynical or is this another way of this generation being able to ignore the inscriptions on many elderly people's arms who survived that horrible era? Will numbers and letters tattooed now become the fashion?
Where has all the violence and anger come from? Many of us as young children lived through the constant fear of war. I refuse to watch television or a movie that shows violence. The thrill some people receive from viewing brutality needs to be channeled into the excitement of seeing and hearing peacefulness, birds chirping, a soft concert.
Perhaps the reaction we receive from different sounds needs to be studied. Can we program individuals from birth with sounds that will make them feel content? Conditioning we called it. Maybe when a baby is born, a gift should be given of beautiful sounds. No hard noises until they are adults. Reprogram our inner feelings. Would that change our world?
Yesterday we attended a party; the noise was loud but filled with laughter. I started to play a silly game that I used to play with my children, with an adorable six month old baby. He responded with such happiness and giggling. Maybe we need to be playing more silly games and training our infants with happy thoughts. Create a content environment for infants even if it is just recordings or on the TV screen. Perhaps this will carry over into one's life.
Or maybe planning situations to eliminate the desire to conquer, aggressive consumption, but would that make us lazy and not willing to work hard?
What has happened to my Pollyanna world? Have we become too callous, just another sick person showing anger, taking it out on innocent people? Where did all this begin? Cain and Abel, two brothers. Should we blame them?
Have we not learned to be civilized since the beginning of time? A young adult I know, who grew up in South American recently said, "Words can be beautiful, but people need to learn to place a filter on their mouth. Words can destroy."
Are we, with all our new technology saying and writing whatever we feel at that moment? Has chatting become too chatty? Perhaps technology has allowed venting of anger to become instantaneous. Wounds heal but scars remain. They become lighter but there will always be a discoloration no matter how much plastic surgery we perform.
Yes, I have become preachy on this Yom Kippur. If my rabbi on the holidays can, perhaps so can I. I am tired of hearing and viewing nastiness on the TV and radio. Maybe we can start putting our "mind-set level" into reality." View the horrific poverty, desolation in the world. Use your energy for creative expression. Remember anger and name calling is just an excuse to cover up ones own inadequacies. SAY SOMETHING NICE to someone!
My students had to write one sentence each day about being nice to someone. It took time but not only did the learn how to write a proper sentence, they learned the wonderful feeling of kindness.
With every advertisement for a luxury car, next to it should be shown an ox cart. Or for every exquisite home, a mud hut being washed off a mountain, or with every box of cereal advertised, a child without enough food should be displayed on TV.
And if I may quote a friend of mine, "Never remove your hand from the ground." Perhaps on Yom Kippur when our stomachs feel empty, visualize the people who are living with that feeling every day of their lives. And when we sit down to break our fast; before we place our forks into our sumptuous dinner make a prayer for those we MUST give the tools to help themselves acquire a decent meal.
And when we get angry over nonsense remember, in the scheme of today's world, "Isn't it really just nonsense; Is it really important?"
On Yom Kippur when we recite "Forgive us for our sins," may we also say, "Help us to help ourselves create a more positive world and erase from our hands the power to hurt through words and deeds."
Wishing our entire nation and this needy world a better year, less anger and more peace. Happy Yom Kippur.