The annual holiday season is always a time of reflecting on issues of peace and well being, on reasons for gratitude. This year is no different than any other.
As I sat in conversation with my husband over lunch today, there was a savory pot of soup bubbling on the stove. The lights on our Jade plant “Christmas tree” sparkle softly even in broad daylight. Our Hanukah menorah is ready in the window, the box of tiny colorful candles and the matches ready nearby. Our rabbi has reminded us that the Hanukah lights are for pure enjoyment. They are to serve no functional use but to be a source of joy that allows for the flow of gratitude for all the miracles in our lives.
It is a perfectly clear day. Earlier, a long morning walk with a dear friend began the day’s activities. Then there was time to write a liturgy for a preaching engagement at the end of the month. There will be dinner with friends and Torah study tonight. Life feels warm, energizing, blessed, and supremely safe.
As we ate our lunch, we reflected on how safe we are. At night, we turn off the lights for sleep without a thought about whether our sleep will be interrupted by anything (except, perhaps by a sleepy trip to the bathroom!). We wake in the morning in the safe awareness that our day will probably unfold pretty much according to the events we have written in on the calendar.
We come and go, day in and day out, without ever locking our doors –even on retiring at night. We travel to the grocery store and fill the tank with gas, do pick-up and drop-off with our grandkids and never question whether we will get back home at the end of the day in safety. We set dates for dinners and celebrations and do not question whether our friends will make it to our home alive and well. We live in safety - - -supreme safety.
At this time of year our minds also turn to the great stories of our combined traditions - - stories of infants and families threatened by oppressive powers, of a baby floating in a basket on a river so that his life might be spared; of another baby spirited out of his own country to a foreign land so that he could live to grow to adulthood. We think of a people historically oppressed by Rome – not permitted to practice their religion, brutalized by the threat of death and destruction as punishment for pursuing the most mundane of daily activities – like prayer, like celebrating Shabbat, like reading their sacred texts. No safety.
We think about children dying from random bullets gone astray, child victims of police excess, parents who can never be sure that they will be able to grow their children to adulthood. We think about whole countries under siege – held captive to the violent excess of governments and movements that make safety a laughable dream for another time - -another life. No safety.
We think about children on the move, trying to make their way to some other “promised land” where they might be able to find safety and discover only treachery and abuse and, often, a ticket that returns them to their starting point. We think about parents who cannot insure their children’s safety and whose only option seems to be to let them go. No safety.
Somehow, as human beings, we have thwarted a holy vision. The words of the Holy One through the prophet Ezekiel promise humankind something so different: I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild animals from the land so that they may live in the wild and sleep in the woods securely……They shall be secure on the soil…..They shall no more be plunder for the nations, nor shall the animals of the land devour them; and they shall live in safety and no one shall make them afraid. (Ezekiel 34:25-27)
As we move ever more deeply into the cosmic darkness that attends the winter solstice, may it be with the prayer and the intention that we join with the ever increasing light that follows to create a world of greater safety for one another. May we create a supreme safety for the next generation of children so that they may grow to healthy adulthood and take up the task in the service of the generations that will follow them.