PREPENT DAY 37
Tishrei 8 5776 – September 21 2015
On September 21st 2007, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon rang the Peace Bell at United Nations Headquarters in New York calling for a 24-hour cessation of hostilities and for a minute of silence to be observed around the world.
In 1982 the UN created World Peace Day, observed since then, each year, on this date. The day begins with the ringing of the Peace Bell, a gift from the United Nations Association of Japan, cast from coins donated by children from all continents (except Africa) ,intended as “a reminder of the human cost of war”; the inscription on its side reads, “Long live absolute world peace”.
It’s easy to be cynical about this day and the UN that created it. Just this morning, a friend sent me a link to a petition, outraged by Saudi Arabia’ decision to crucify a young man for vague political allegations. Saudi Arabia is currently, again, the Chair of the UN Human Rights Council.
But all that frustrating politics aside, I want to take seriously this World Peace Day as an invitation, just one day before we stand together to recite the prayers of atonement, to focus on what matters most: How to become less of the problem in the world and more of the solution.
How to bring peace-making tools into my daily being and doing this coming year, starting today.
The peace talk is tall and tiring. The work, we all know, begins at home, begins within. All our rage and fear, contempt and competition can be handled better if we took a breath, remembered that we are all interconnected and rely on each other, and find ways – not simple – to engage our gratitude, our best intentions, our humor, and our trust.
I am guilty of being part of the problem. Just this week I have engaged in conversations that included conflict over any number of things, big or small, critical and not, choosing confrontation over accommodation. Looking back at it now, with a sour taste in my mouth, the choice to come from conflict is always a short-term choice, not looking at the long-term and the bigger picture. That is one sure way to make more conflict and less peace.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama taught: “Peace does not mean an absence of conflicts; differences will always be there. Peace means solving these differences through peaceful means; through dialogue, education, knowledge; and through humane ways.”
Of Aaron, the first Hebrew High Priest, it is told ‘He loved and pursued peace.’ The sages encouraged us to be ‘Aaron’s disciples’. Moses, Aaron’s brother, is the bringer of total truth and divine covenant. Aaron is the champion of peace, the one who is able to negotiate the truths and link the people and the mystery together.
On Yom Kippur we will chant the Torah’s telling of Aaron’s big day of sacred service as he enters the Holy of Holies, rekindling the flames of hope of intimacy for another year. To be his disciples this year, following in his peacemaking footsteps, we each have to step up our game, walk our talk, take this peace work seriously: Whatever that means for each and every one of us. How else can we look ourselves in the mirror? How else can we look into our children’s eyes and say – I did what I could or at least something towards more peace and less conflict in the world?
Another priest of sacred powers is coming to visit us this Yom Kippur. Pope Francis is coming to New York and DC, arriving tomorrow, speaking up for the earth and for social inequality at the UN, at the White House and at a joined session of Congress. I plan to dedicate some of my remarks during Yom Kippur to his vision for our survival and also focus on his recent Encyclical at Lab/Shul’s annual Interfaith Prayer for Peace.
It’s nice to cite the leader of a religion that for so many religions was considered, for valid reasons, the enemy of mine. When it comes to the vision of people united for good, this Holy Father is doing more good for the world than many other leaders of many faiths. Within his limitations he is making peace and reconciliation prosper in many hearts. Here is his advice on how to advance peace of mind and soul, one heart at a time: “Each of us has a vision of good and of evil. We have to encourage people to move towards what they think is good… Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place.”
What will each of us commit to today on our path for being peacemakers?
I want to shout out blessings and gratitude to a dear friend who has become a global peace maker and advocate for human dignity esp. for the Trans community. At last night’s EMMY awards, Jill Soloway won ‘outstanding director’ for the incredible show she created – ‘Transparent’. Jill is a doer if ever there was one, and this Yom Kippur, I hold her super funny and courageous call for more love and peace in the world as a role model of how to stand up to hatred and rise up to hope.
The theme of the 2015 World Peace Day is “Partnerships for Peace – Dignity for All.”
I invite us all to observe a minute of silence, wherever and whenever we are. And after that silence, to spend a couple of minutes thinking seriously about just two questions:
What am I doing to bring more peace into my life?
How can I be more helpful creating more peace in the world and less conflict?
Thank you to all our role models. May we walk just a step in their footsteps this coming year.
Shalom. Salam. Peace.