Saturday, May 19, 2018


“You are You! That is TRUER Than TRUE!
Rabbi Victor H. Reinstein

A sacred text of a different sort came to me as a gift recently. The place of its giving became as Sinai in that moment, a place of revelation and delight in the transmission of Torah from generation to generation. In this case, it was the handing of Torah from younger to older, a child unassuming and unaware of the gift transmitted. On a recent trip to Los Angeles to meet our newest grandchild, we went to pick up our eldest grandchild from school, not so little Leo, now six years old. Leo proudly took us on a tour of his school, showing us the playground first, and then the synagogue around which the school is configured, and then the music room, and the science room, so much opportunity, all part of his life and in some six-year old way seemingly appreciated and not taken for granted.

Finally we came to Leo’s classroom. He opened the door and led us in with a great smile, showing us where he sat to read, where he did math, where he washed his hands. He stopped with us in front of a large, brightly colored poster, seeming to know that it would mean as much to his zayde as to him. Of course I realized immediately from its color and illustration that it was a teaching of “Reb Seuss.” His oma Mieke and I held his hands as we read the words together with all the appropriate drama of something important, of a moment to be marked and remembered.

The words jumped from the poster with the timeless cadence of Dr. Seuss, and with the excited voices of grandparents and grandchild reading together, students all:



Of common threads upon the loom of life, the words sing of universal truths in different tones and hues that each one might recognize in their own way the melody that is truer than true. It is the essence of the Slonimer Rebbe’s signature theme: No human is just the same from the day of the human’s creation and onward; and one person cannot repair that which devolves upon another person to repair. Therefore, there is to each person their own task and purpose through which it is upon them to bring repair in their lifetime (Portion Lech L’cha, Gen. 12:1-17:27).

We are each unique in who we are and in the gifts that we bring to this world and its repair. In the essence of who each one is we become part of something greater than ourselves and are yet integral to that greater whole. It is the nature and lesson of the minyan, the Jewish prayer quorum, a symbolic representation of the community and yet counted by ones. Of that which joins us one to another as a community, each of us in our uniqueness, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch offers a beautiful insight, so simple and so profound from the weekly Torah portion B’har-B’chukkotai (Lev. 25:1-27:34). It is a portion that emphasizes human equality and the responsibility of one for another, to be learned through the profound reorganization of society that is experienced every seventh year through the laws of Sh’mita/the Sabbatical year. Fields are to lie fallow and all are to gather food from what grows of itself. Reminded that the land belongs to its Creator, landowner and tenant, stranger and home-born are all equal, gathering together shoulder to shoulder, a reminder of how it is meant to be, none with the upper hand, wealth redistributed and shared by all.

Drawing together all the preceding verses that bring home God’s vision of human society, become again as the Garden that was in the beginning, the Torah says, v’chey achicha imach/your brother’s/sister’s life shall be bound up with you. Rabbi Hirsch takes the word im/with and explains that it is this simple word that makes individuals into an am/a people. The two words, im and am, are formed of the same two letters, ayin and mem, but one small difference of a vowel allowing for the collective blossoming of individuals into a people. We can only be a people when we are with each other. As the people is reflected in the ways of our being in community with each other, so we are joined in all of our uniqueness, each one’s task and purpose needed to bring repair and make us whole.

In the delighted sharing of a child with his grandparents, we learn from a sacred text so brightly colored what each of us needs to know if within ourselves we would be whole and yet be part of a greater whole. It is, of course, that “you are you, and that is truer than TRUE!



Friday, May 11, 2018

The Korean Peace Movement


            Thanks to the reporting of independent journalists like Sarah Lazare, we are learning the real story behind the historic Korean Peace Declaration. Lazare’s conversation with Korean peace activist Christine Ahn was featured in the web only edition of In These Times, April 30, 2018.  (In These Times).  Her report and the Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula are the basis of the following story.

            South Korean-born Ahn founded and coordinates Women Cross DMZ ... a global movement of women mobilizing to end the Korean War, reunite families, and ensure women’s roles in peace building. Lazare identifies Ahn and Women Cross DMZ (Christine Ahn - Women Cross DMZ | Ending The Korean War ..).  as one of the key groups that helped oust former South Korean President Park Geun-hye and give President Moon Jae-in a mandate for peace. 

          According to Ahn, international activists and peace movements forced the North and South Korean leaders to release a statement that declares the “new era of peace,” which includes taking steps toward family reunification, denuclearization, and cessation of all hostile acts. She reminds us all that Korea and the Korean people are at the center of the process leading up to the peace statement.

            In her interview with Lazare, Ahn explains that the Candlelight Revolution led to the overthrow of President Park Geun-hye and the election of President Moon Jae-in, who comes from the movement for democracy and human rights. His popularity rating among South Koreans is between 70 and 80 percent.

            Also according to Ahn, in 2016 a white American lawyer, whom she does not identify, showed up at a press conference to accuse the peace movement of being the work of the North Korean government. Now, Ahn says, we have to continue to build an international movement and increase mobilization. More than 20 countries participated in the Korean War. According to one military historian cited by Lazare, during the Korean War at least 18 of North Korea’s 22 major cities were “at least half obliterated.”  When we hear endless stories about the poverty in North Korea this history is seldom told, but is certainly worth remembering as we think about the opportunity of the present and our shared responsibility for the future.

            The Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula  (Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the ...) was signed by President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea and Chairman Kim Jong-un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea at an Inter-Korean Summit Meeting at the “Peace House” at Panmunjom on April 27, 2018. The two leaders declared that there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula, and promised “to boldly approach a new era of national reconciliation, peace and prosperity, and to improve and cultivate inter-Korean relations in a more active manner.         

            The Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Koran Peninsula has three main sections.

            The first section begins with a commitment to “reconnect the blood relations of the people and bring forward the future co-prosperity and unification led by Koreans.” It also contains an agreement to hold dialogue “at a very high level” to implement the agreement, and established a joint liaison office. The two sides agree to demonstrate their unity by jointly participating in international sporting events, swiftly resolving humanitarian issues, and proceeding with family reunification programs. The first family reunion will be held on August 15, 2018, National Liberation Day (the anniversary of Korean liberation from Japanese occupation).
            The second section commits both South Korea and North Korea to make joint efforts “to alleviate the acute military tension and practically eliminate the danger of war on the Korean Peninsula.” The two sides agree to transform the DMZ into a peace zone, and agree to hold meetings between military authorities. The first meetings will be held at the rank of general in May.
            The third section reaffirms “the Non-Aggression Agreement that precludes the use of force in any form,” and contains an agreement “to carry out disarmament in a phased manner.” Both North Korea and South Korea agree to enter into trilateral meetings with the United States and quadrilateral meetings involving the two Koreas, the United States, and China, “with a view to declaring an end to the War and establishing a permanent and solid peace regime.” It also includes a commitment to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.

            Getting the United States and China to sign a peace agreement may be the most difficult part of the Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula. Informed advocates in the United States can and will make a difference.

Rev. David Hansen
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Friday, May 4, 2018

Meat

Once on the Cheyenne River Reservation I had the opportunity to visit with the keeper of their bison herd. It was shortly after one of the worst blizzards that area had seen in a long time. Hundreds of cattle died. The drifts were so high and hard, fences were useless. 

I asked this young man if they had lost any of their bison in the blizzard. He said yes, they had. One of them crossed over the fence on a snow drift, got out on the bridge over the Missouri River and fell to his death on the ice below. It made me realize how well adapted to this climate bison are and how difficult blizzards could be for immigrant cattle. One bison dead; hundreds of cattle.

I also learned about their slaughtering operation. The tribe had ordered a special trailer that could be driven into the field when they took a bison. It was important to take the meat quickly. If there was too much trauma for the animal it produced toxic substances that ruined the meat. So they did their best to fell the animal at peace in the field. Then they would begin the harvest as quickly as possible.               A moveable trailer accommodated this operation. 

Traditionally, in Native culture, one offered prayers of forgiveness and thanksgiving for taking life. Creatures had moral integrity. They were not just there to serve humans but had their own Creator given dignity.

I've thought about this many times as I have reflected on our industrial meat factories. They seem to be filled with trauma. Six states have even found it necessary to pass "ag-gag" laws. These laws aren't passed to prevent animal cruelty but to keep it from becoming public. They protect these factory farms from transparency. Filming the treatment of animals in these confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) becomes a punishable offense. When people see these films, it has severe economic consequences. Watchers don't want to eat meat, or eggs!

Do we really think it's healthy for animals and humans when millions of haggard, featherless hens are crowded into microwave size wire cages? When they can't spread their wings; sometimes laying their eggs on their dead and rotting cage mates. Do we really believe the eggs they lay and we eat are OK?

We've been discussing whether animals deserve moral concern the same as humans in ethics class. My guess is most people in our society follow Immanuel Kant when it comes to animals. "But so far as animals are concerned, we have no direct duties. Animals … are there merely as means to an end. That end is man." Or perhaps our society is indebted to Thomas Aquinas. "Hereby is refuted the error of those who said it is sinful for a man to kill brute animals; for by the divine providence they are intended for man's use in the natural order. Hence it is not wrong for man to make use of them, either by killing them or in any other way whatever." 

       Or perhaps you might prefer to refer to Saint Bonaventure. A Franciscan, he believed creatures were the "footprints of God." He believed we needed each and every one of them in order to recognize the glory and grandeur of God. To lose even one species was to diminish God's glory. 

We don't know how many species there are on the planet. But  estimates are we lose between 1,000 and 10,000 species a year because of human activity. There are so many species now threatened, especially with a changing climate; think penguins.

Several years ago, I mentioned in a small rural church I had just begun serving, that I was a vegetarian. It was more of an aside, not a particularly relevant point to the sermon. One member heard it loud and clear. After the service I was confronted. He said, "do you know where you are? This is cattle country! You must be courageous or crazy talking about being a vegetarian."

So far it's only red meat vegetarianism. That's been difficult enough in a hamburger crazy society. But fowl will be next and perhaps fish will follow. I'm still working on it. And since nobody knows the content of pepperoni, that will likely be last.

The excuse for my slow process is because the philosophical and theological convictions one holds are hard to implement when temptation and contrary attitudes are rampant. 

         Do animals deserve moral concern? It's an important question as we face the future. Our state government seems intent on pushing CAFOs, especially in our area. We already have our share. They seem to exercise considerable economic and political clout. On the other hand, our farmer's market continues to grow and develop. We can get our eggs from a local farm family. And small scale farming seems ready to make a comeback. 

My question is, is anybody saying prayers at the slaughterhouse, or even at the dining table?

Carl Kline