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Today we roll in ashes: Note by Amichai

Ramadan begins today, a month of spiritual reconnection for Muslims worldwide.

Tamuz begins today, the Hebrew month that brings us into the annual season of honoring all that’s broken in our lives so that we can reconnect to what’s sacred and worth fixing.  Like Ramadan, Tamuz brings with it fast days intended to connect us deeper into what matter most. Mourning wakes us up to the values of living worthwhile lives. 

Mourning today ripples out from South Carolina. 

The heartbreaking news from Charleston today reminds us of how much hatred and fear still dominates our lives worldwide and how much work we have to take on to be the peacemakers of the world we want to live and thrive in.  Just two nights ago the Lab/Shul community sang together ‘we shall overcome’ at our Peacemaker Gala, with Peter Yarrow, David Broza, Theo Bikel – peacemaker bards – leading us all in the songs of the movement for justice and dignity and peace. Ali Paris, a young Palestinian musician, joined them on stage to make our prayers sing in Arabic and Hebrew and English – together, for peace. 

We lit candles for peace. 
Today I light candles of memorial and mourning. 

Holocaust event

Today is mourning, sackcloth and rage. My friend Rev. Jennifer Bailey, a minister with the AME Church published a heartbreaking piece today in the Huffington Post –  Rolling in Sackcloth and Ashes. Here’s a vital quote:

“Nine people are dead today and I am angry. I have no doubt the anger I feel is righteous. My God is one who stands on the side of those who are marginalized and oppressed. My God is not docile, and is big enough to hold my anger, frustration and questions. My God understands that narratives of reconciliation and peace are not what my community needs right now. What we need is truth-telling and accountability. We need this horrific massacre to be named for what it was: a racist act of domestic terrorism. We need those in positions of power to acknowledge that this was not simply a “single incident,” but the latest in a 400-year history of violence against black people in the United States. We need religious leaders to step up and speak out against implicit and explicit acts of racial violence in their congregations. Until then, I’ll be adorned in sackcloth and ashes in mourning for my people and the nation they call home.”

I heed her call to stand out loud with ashes and rage, prepared for these months during which we Jews remember hatred and destruction, committed to do all that we can to lessen the evil in the world. Standing along with Muslims as the days of fast and the nights of feast commit them (and us) to more sacred loving living. Standing with our Christian sisters and brothers, and today especially with our friends and family of color, in mourning.  What can each one of us do to add less hate and more love to the world? What can each one of us do to prevent the next hate crime? 

Even the beloved Pope came out with hateful words earlier this week – denying gay people like me the dignity of being 100% parents according to his still too narrow worldview of who is sacred. Shame on him. Pride with all my sisters and brothers who are fighting for the life and dignity of all beings, regardless of race, religious faith, gender or class.  We are all made in the Divine image. The God that Rev. Bailey talks of is the one I turn to at these moments of silence. The divine voice of humanity within each and every one of us, the voice of total compassion and respect. 

Deep sorrow with the families mourning their losses, the whole community in Charleston, and with all people in this country fighting for justice and equality. 

Blessings of peace to our Muslim friends upon this sacred month of reconnection.

Commitment to stand in vigil, ashes and sackcloth, rage and protest, until we overcome. 

May we all be peacemakers, together.

June 18 2015
Amichai Lau-Lavie