Tag Archives: Judaism
The Huffington Post UK | Posted: 9/11/2013
George W Bush is set to be the keynote speaker at a fundraising dinner for a controversial group that aims to convert Jews to Christianity.
The former president will address the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute this coming week, which has tickets priced from $250 to $100,000, Mother Jones reported.
After the story was published on the investigative magazine’s website, the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute, whose followers consider themselves to be Jewish followers of Jesus, removed references to the appearance from its website.
George W Bush is set to be the keynote speaker at a fundraising dinner for Messianic Jewish Bible Institute
But Freddy Ford, a spokesman for the former president, told Mother Jones Bush’s plans “haven’t changed,” and he will appear.
The group’s mission is to bring about the Second Coming by converting Jews to follow Jesus, and vehemently criticised by Jews.
He is not the first prominent Republican to address the group. In 2011, presidential nominee hopeful Rick Santorum address the group’s annual conference, a decision which the Anti-Defamation League, which monitors antisemitism called “insensitive and offensive”.
Jewish scholar Jay Michaelson told the Jewish Daily Forward: “To be clear, Messianic Judaism is a sham. Yes, there are some people who believe themselves to be Jewish believers in Jesus – sorry, Yeshua – and who wear kippas around the Christmas Tree. But this small group of eccentric believers is propped up by millions of religious-philanthropic dollars. They are a front. Uncle Baums.
“Don’t worry, Jewish Republicans said, Bush is good for the Jews. Well, now the ex-emperor has no clothes. Unless you think that helping Jews find Jesus is “good for the Jews,” this latest act of Bush’s evangelical faith – entirely consistent with previous ones – should set that myth to rest.
“Evangelicals like Bush sincerely love the Jews, but they love us in a very particular way: because, by ceasing to become Jews, we play an instrumental role in the Christian apocalyptic narrative.”
Bush, who lives on his ranch in Dallas, has retired almost completely from public life since 2008, concentrating on his Institute, which campaigns on education, military issues and aid. He is also a prolific painter of cats, it emerged earlier this year, and he is said to have begun working on a series of 19 portraits of the foreign leaders with whom he dealt while US president
by Andrew McKie
Because it is invariably brought up in any discussion about God and Mammon, let’s clarify one point.
Jesus did not throw the money-lenders out of the Temple, not least because there weren’t any money-lenders in the Temple.
The incident usually known as the Cleansing of the Temple is mentioned in all four Gospels (Matthew 21; Mark 11; Luke 19; and John 2, if you fancy looking it up). They all agree that the people whom Jesus chucked out when he “whummelt the tables”, as Lorimer’s excellent Scots translation of St Mark puts it, were money-changers (and pigeon sellers).
They couldn’t have been money-lenders because Jews were not allowed to lend money at interest to other Jews (though they could to Gentiles). Greek and Roman coins were not acceptable for Temple donations, so there was a sort of bureau de change for turning them into Jewish money. The distinction is important, because traditional Jewish, Christian and Islamic notions of usury distinguish between commerce and lending money at interest.
Money-changing was a commercial operation, not a usurious one, which makes Christ’s action, if anything, even more radical. It is also the only instance in the New Testament when Jesus uses physical force.
Money-lending has always been problematic for religious groups, as the Archbishop of Canterbury discovered last week when launching a crusade against the payday loan company Wonga, only to discover that the Church of England had invested in the business. Although it was very indirectly, and a very small sum compared with its overall investments, he immediately conceded that this was embarrassing. (Politicians might try this little-used tactic, known as telling the truth.)
The Church of Scotland, which has already said it would like to follow the archbishop’s initiative, is sensibly first checking its own investments to ensure that it doesn’t have any money in similar enterprises.
The condemnation of lending money at interest is by no means as straightforward as it might seem; the Sermon on the Mount declares that there is a moral duty to lend money, while in the parable of the talents (which in Luke is actually in the same chapter as the Cleansing of the Temple), the feckless servant is upbraided for having failed to put his money out on the exchanges to get a return.
But one of the chief obstacles the poor face is being unable to borrow money, which is why micro-lending schemes for Third World countries are one of the most effective forms of aid. In practice, Christians have always been allowed to charge some interest on loans; the Council of Nicea, for example, ruled that interest should be capped at 12.7% APR, though it didn’t put it in quite those terms.
The chief justifications given were usually that the lender should either share in the venture being financed, and compensated for the risk, or that he should gain some allowance for the loss of profit which he might have made had he invested the money himself – a doctrine very similar to the economic notion of opportunity cost.
Islam, which has historically taken a stricter view of lending at interest, has nonetheless created a successful banking system which builds on similar ideas, such as risk-sharing and fees for safekeeping.
But no matter how generously or loosely one defines usury, I think we can be fairly confident that the advertised APR of Wonga, which is a staggering 5853%, would be judged by most theologians – not to mention anyone of any faith or none who has half an eye and the ability to count to three – to be outrageously usurious.
This doesn’t seem to bother the firm, which, to be fair, makes no pretence about its charges and points out that it is not designed for long-term lending (its current maximum term is 46 days).
Wonga acknowledges that it is not the cheapest or most sensible way to borrow money, but believes it provides a convenient and efficient service for those who require loans for very short periods, and may find them difficult to get from more conventional lenders.
The problem for payday lenders of this sort, however, is that their customers are overwhelmingly drawn from the poorest sections of society. Of course Wonga and firms like it are operating within the law, and people are free to choose their service or not. But the reality for many poor people is that they do not really have that element of choice.
The refreshing thing about Justin Welby’s intervention in this debate is that he did not choose to call for lenders with high interest rates to be outlawed – indeed, he has acknowledged that they can be well run and are infinitely better than illegal street lenders who are likely to collect their payments with the aid of a claw hammer. Instead, he has suggested using churches to help expand the reach of credit unions, something which the Kirk is also considering.
By declaring he would like to “compete Wonga out of business”, the archbishop has played a blinder, and won approval from all points in the political spectrum. The right likes it, because it’s entirely consistent with free markets. The traditional left approves of mutualism, and better rates for the poor (though a credit union’s maximum 2% a month is still, in fact, twice the Council of Nicea’s upper limit). Even Wonga has said that it welcomes competition as good for customers – something which businesses always pretend to approve of, even if most of them secretly like markets only when they work for their benefit.
The archbishop’s background in commerce, as well as his acknowledgement that the Church, if it is to operate in the secular world, is bound to be imperfect, gives weight to his plans. But their primary usefulness is not merely to help those who find it difficult to borrow small sums at reasonable rates – valuable though that is. It is also a declaration that the Church can, and should, be actively involved in helping the most vulnerable, and that it should be taking its place in the public square.
The Church of Scotland’s General Assembly may have called last year for legislation to cap interest rates, but the Kirk’s decision to back Archbishop Welby’s scheme – as well as its announcement that it is considering funding credit unions, is a more effective and concrete demonstration of commitment. Like food banks, many of which operate from church networks, facilitating credit unions is a practical manifestation of the Christian imperative to help those in need.
There’s nothing particularly virtuous about trying to outlaw businesses which you think morally objectionable; providing a real alternative, however, is not only a spiritual, but a material, good.
British Teacher Argues Anti-Jewish Conspiracy Theories Are ‘Philosophical Belief’
A primary school teacher who compared Jews to Star Trek’s Vulcans, has lost his attempt to argue that his anti-Jewish views were a “philosophical belief” covered under the Equality Act.
The teacher, referred to only as Mr Arya, was sacked as a primary school teacher after being accused of pushing and shouting at a child; making sexist and racist comments about colleagues in letters to the National Union of Teachers; and directing anti-Semitic abuse at a colleague in a text and email.
Arya had argued that he was discriminated against by the London Borough of Waltham Forest for his view that “the Jewish religion’s professed belief in Jews being ‘God’s chosen people’ is at odds with a meritocratic and multicultural society, and was a philosophical belief, protected under the Equality Act.
The teacher argued it was his right to hold anti-Jewish views
During the pre-hearing review, Arya insisted he did not consider himself to be anti-Semitic, and drew a Star Trek analogy, comparing Vulcans to Jewish people.
The London tribunal heard about Arya’s conviction that a Jewish cabal controls society, with a Jewish lobby influencing politics and the media. He blamed Jews for “messing with his head” and believes that they may have the ability to send messages back in time.
Arya said he believed there was a “vastly disproportionate” emphasis in Western culture on the suffering and history of Jews, ignoring the “anti-social aspects of Hebrew culture”, compared with countries’ obsession with Islamism.
Referencing the Holocaust, he said that there is a “definite and controlled effort to give a one-sided version of history”, citing the use of the word “innocent” in the “ubiquitous” media term “six million innocent Jews [murdered in the Holocaust]”.
“The Jewish situation has been institutionalised to serve as a convenient profiteering racket by third and fourth generations of Jews,” he said.
Although the tribunal did conclude that the anti-Jewish belief was a serious belief “going back to his childhood” and was “genuinely held”, it did not meet the rest of the criteria for a philosophical belief. It was not “worthy of respect in a democratic society and not incompatible with human dignity and/or conflict with the fundamental rights of others”.
The tribunal judge dismissed his complaints of discrimination and harassment relating to the philosophical belief, but the tribunal will hear the other complaints he has lodged.
Arya is “allowed to hold these views” but his freedom of expression has to be limited in order not to infringe the freedom of others, it said.
XPertHR, which wrote a detailed report on the implications of the case, said the decision should “reassure employers that outrageous or offensive views are unlikely to be protected by equality legislation, because the open expression of these views would in turn discriminate against others.”
In this extract from the book For God’s Sake, one question is asked to four Australian writers with very different beliefs
- guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 2 July 2013 00.03 BST
Rachel Woodlock (Islam)
Religion is powerfully motivating and belligerent humans fight over it. Heck, religion has caused conflict even in my diverse and tolerant family. Taking our daughter to visit her Irish-Catholic relatives, I asked my husband to make sure they didn’t give her any pork. Like Jews, Muslims steer clear of anything with an oink. My gentle, peaceable mate, wanting to avoid one of those conversations, said: “Mam, Yazzy doesn’t like pork so don’t give her any.” A few days later, my beaming mother-in-law proudly announced: “She does like pork. I gave her some sausages and she ate them right up!” It took a few days for my blood pressure to return to normal.
For God’s Sake
- This is an edited Extract from For God’s Sake: An Atheist, A Jew, a Christian and a Muslim Debate Religion. Published July 2013 by Pan Macmillan
Then again, humans also fight over small bits of compressed carbon, tracts of dirt, addictive mind-altering substances and soccer matches. It’s not just religious ideology that causes problems – state-imposed atheism was a defining feature of brutal 20th century regimes led by Stalin, Tito, Mao Zedong, and Pol Pot among others, which resulted in the suffering and murder of millions. Tens of thousands of Russian Christians alone were executed for their beliefs by atheists intent on purging religion from the Soviet Union.
Yet it’s true, religion has been a major feature in some historical conflicts and the most recent wave of modern terrorism. Religion has taken on extra significance today because globalisation is challenging and changing everything. Religious identity not only survives but can take on heightened significance when national and political alliances break apart, as happened in the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, when Serbs, Croats and Bosniacs were divided along Orthodox, Catholic and Muslim fault lines.
The Qur’an recognises the human propensity for conflict and gives permission for defensive warfare. Muslim scholars developed a just-war theory although admittedly in the ensuing centuries jihad was also used to further the territorial ambitions of ruthless leaders, just as today it’s distorted to justify terrorist bombings. Like both law and politics, religion can be used to defend the oppressed and to oppress the defenceless.
The problem of corrupt religion has attracted the criticism of many prophets and saints. The Qur’an censures religious hypocrites:
Among the people there is he whose discourse on the life of the world pleases you, and he calls on God as witness to what is in his heart, yet he is an unyielding and antagonistic adversary. When he turns and leaves, he walks about corrupting the earth, destroying crops and livestock – God loves not corruption (Q2:204–205).
The verse could well apply to Saddam Hussein, who made a show of praying on television, but gassed and bombed Kurds and was a tyrannical dictator. Religion, unfortunately, provides a useful cover and powerful motivator for the evil-hearted. That religion can be so markedly different in the hands of the power-hungry, as opposed to the altruistic and virtuous, really says more about human psychology than it does about religion. That’s why so many human conflicts unfortunately involve religion.
Antony Loewenstein (Judaism)
Alain de Botton, philosopher and author of Religion for Atheists, is worried about fundamentalism. “To say something along the lines of ‘I’m an atheist: I think religions are not all bad’ has become a dramatically peculiar thing to say,” he told British journalist Bryan Appleyard in 2012. “If you do say it on the internet you will get savage messages calling you a fascist, an idiot or a fool. This is a very odd moment in our culture.”
Neo-atheism, the belief that science is the only path to truth and all religions are equally deluded and destructive, has taken hold in much of the debate over atheism. The movement, whose keys figures include Richard Dawkins, the late Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett, is an ideology that arrogantly celebrates an understanding of everything through supposed reason and proof. It allows little doubt or questioning about the unknown. It also happens that some of these key figures, including Ayaan Hirsi Ali, are backers of state violence against Muslim countries since 11 September 2001.
It’s clearly an exaggeration to suggest atheists are rampaging through the streets demanding the end of religious belief but the last decade has seen an ever-increasing number of atheists feeling the need to ridicule or damn people who do believe in a god.
Dawkins, at a dinner with de Botton and others in London in 2012, recounted a conversation he’d had with Hitchens. “Do you ever worry,” Dawkins asked, “that if we win and, so to speak, destroy Christianity, that vacuum would be filled with Islam?”
It’s a curious question that reflects both the vicious hatred of Muslims by many so-called new atheists but also a creepy utopian nightmare that is apparently idealised by them. Destroy Christianity? Because the Catholic Church has committed innumerable crimes, opposes abortion and birth control, refuses to accept female priests and hides sex offenders in its midst? To be sure, the institution is dysfunctional, but wishing for its disintegration reflects a savagery that will only inflame, not reduce tensions.
None of this is to excuse the undeniable barbarity unleashed by religionists over the centuries. The misogyny, beheadings, terrorism, killings, beatings and cruelty are real. They continue. Today we see a growing battle in the Middle East between Shi’ite and Sunni; a Jewish state unleashing militancy against Christian and Muslim Palestinians; and an anti-gay crusade led by some Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders that threatens the sanctity of life itself.
I’ve been guilty of claiming religion is the source of the world’s evils, but it’s a careless comment. It’s far too easy to blame the Muslim faith for honour killings. I’m under no illusion about the fact that religion is routinely used to justify the more heinous crimes. But the 20th century is filled with examples, namely Stalin’s Soviet Union and Mao’s China, that didn’t need God as an excuse to commit genocide against a state’s own people.
Jane Caro (Atheism)
As 14 year-old Malala Yousafzai sat on a bus in the grounds of her school in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, a gunman shot her in the head. After proudly claiming responsibility, the Taliban told the world that the teenage education activist’s work represented “a new chapter of obscenity, and we have to finish this chapter”. The “obscenity” was the education of girls.
The Taliban felt no shame. They know that what they have done is right because their god tells them so. Gods have been used to justify almost any cruelty, from burning heretics and stoning adulterers to crucifying Jesus himself.
On the other side of the world, Anders Behring Breivik slaughtered 77 Norwegians. Breivik seems to have seen his murderous spree as a way of getting rid of Muslims, yet his 1,500-page manifesto revealed, at best, a weak attachment to religious belief. To Breivik, Christianity seems important mainly because he sees it as white. Breivik, like the devoutly religious Taliban, also appears to feel no shame.
The men who flew planes into buildings on 9/11, the Pakistanis who went on a murderous rampage in Mumbai and the Bali bombers, all killed as many people as they could in the name of their religion. Breivik did it in the name of his race. Timothy McVeigh, who killed 168 people and wounded 800, hated the government. All saw their mass murder as a political act of protest and all felt justified.
Atheists like Mao or Pol Pot have murdered millions in the name of political totalitarianism. Hitler used a quasi-mystical racist philosophy to exploit the ancient hatred of the Jews by Christians. I heard somewhere (I’ve never been able to discover where) that terrorism occurs when you combine a sense of military and economic inferiority with a sense of moral superiority. Religion is very good at conferring a sense of moral superiority on its followers.
Indeed, while the religious have murdered throughout history in the name of their god, I’ve been unable to find any evidence of atheists killing anyone in the name of atheism. Atheists are no more or less capable of evil than anyone else, but it seems that murder, particularly mass murder and war, is a sin of commission. In other words, human beings are generally only prepared to fight and kill in the name of something. It can be a god, but it can also be a political philosophy – like nazism or communism. Many fight for patriotism: for country, tribe or race. Some kill because they’re psychologically disturbed, but none – so far – in the name of atheism.
So, while I don’t agree that only religion causes conflict, I’d argue that all mass murder and war are fought in the name of a bigger-than-self philosophy or idea. Atheism, simply lack of belief in a god, has not yet proved compelling enough to motivate murder. So far no one has gone into a crowded public space and blown themselves up while shouting, “No god is great!”.
Simon Smart (Christianity)
Religion has been implicated in all sorts of conflict and violence throughout human history. There is blood on the hands of the faithful, and no avoiding the fact that in the service of the wrong people, religion can be a force of great harm. This includes Christianity. If we consider the sins of the Christian past critics have plenty to work with – witch-hunts, the Crusades, Christian support of slavery.
But the picture is much more complex than is often implied. Take the Inquisition. Dinner party guests are likely to nod in agreement when someone mentions the “millions killed” at the hands of the church but historians now suggest around 5,000 – 6,000 over a 350-year period. That’s less than 18 a year. One a year is terrible, but the reality appears a long way from what we are often served up.
Likewise the idea that most of the wars of history have been caused by religion is demonstrably false. The vast majority of wars have been conducted in the pursuit of profits or power, or waged for territory or tribal supremacy, even if religion has been caught up in those pursuits. But there is a very real sense in which religion can moderate those forces. David Hart notes that, “Religious conviction often provides the sole compelling reason for refusing to kill … or for seeking peace … the truth is that religion and irreligion are cultural variables, but killing is a human constant”.
Of course millions were killed at the hands of Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot. To say their murderous totalitarianism had nothing to do with their atheism is to completely misunderstand them and the ideologies on which their actions rested. Yale theologian Miroslav Volf argues that as far as Christianity goes, it will only be violent if it is stripped of its content— thinned out – and infused with a different set of values. The story of Jesus gives absolutely no warrant for violence. Any believer behaving that way is disobeying the one they claim to be following.
The answer, Volf argues, to violence perpetrated in the name of the Cross, is not less Christianity but more – Christianity that is not depleted of its meaning but full of its original moral content, which is at its heart non-violent and a force for good.
When Martin Luther King Jr confronted racism in the white church in the South he called on those churches not to become more secular, but more Christian. King knew that the answer to racism and violence was not less Christianity but a deeper and truer Christianity. King gained his inspiration from the one who said that those who follow him must turn the other cheek, love their enemies and pray for those who persecuted them. His leadership of the civil rights struggle remains a fine example of love triumphing over hate; of costly and courageous resistance of evil and of religiously inspired social action that made the kind of difference that everyone can appreciate.
- How much does religion cause violence and war in the world? (antonyloewenstein.com)
- The Australian reviews “For God’s Sake” (antonyloewenstein.com)
- Christianity and atheism (sandystrachan.wordpress.com)
- Great review of “For God’s Sake” hits (antonyloewenstein.com)
Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, the Baal Shem Tov (Master of the Good Name), was a mystic and spiritual teacher who lived in the 18th century Eastern Europe and founded the Hasidic movement in Judaism. According to Hasidic teachings, a Jewish spiritual practice is a mitzvah, an opportunity for the soul to connect to the Divine. Rosh Hashanah is associated with the mitzvah of sounding the Shofar (traditionally a ram’s horn) to wake the soul from its spiritual slumber and during Elul (the month preceding Rosh Hashanah). It is customary to sound the Shofar every day during morning prayers to prepare for the Jewish New Year.
Elul is a time for Teshuva, which is usually translated as “atonement” but is more accurately translated according to the root of this word: “to return.” Teshuva is the process of returning to ones true self. The Jewish spiritual practice of sounding the Shofar is not just an event happening on the outside, it is also an inner event happening within the soul. The psychological and spiritual disposition, the intention of the person engaging in the mitzvah deeply effects the experience of the mitzvah. The following is my interpretation of a story told by the Baal Shem Tov, to describe the inner state associated with sounding the Shofar:
There was once a great King whose vast realm spanned many lands. The King was good, wise and kind. He knew that the throne was given to him in order to serve his people and that his power came from a Higher source and he dedicated his life to stewarding and building a healthy kingdom. The King had a son, a prince whom he loved very much. The Prince lived in the royal castle with his family and his days were spent studying, practicing arts that would prepare him to govern and learning about people so he could serve them. The Prince was taught that, although he was a prince, he was not here just to live for himself, and that he was part of a great tapestry of life — that he was bound together by invisible threads to all the other people and beings that made up this tapestry and was here to be of service this great whole. He learned that human beings should be treated with the utmost respect, that life was sacred and how each of his actions were important. How easy it was to destroy and how hard it was to build. He was schooled to not let the reasons for his actions come from outside himself but from within, not to react but to choose and most importantly to love his fellow as himself. He learned these and many other things and the life of the Prince was very glad.
Then one day his father, the King, told him he must go to a small town very far from the castle, to a place so far away that most people did not even know that there was a King. He was told to live with and learn about the people there. It pained the heart of the Prince to leave his father, family and everything he loved, but he trusted his father and so he departed on his mission. He journeyed across the land to the edge of his fathers realm and entered into the town. Although he was wearing the royal garb of the castle, none of the people in the town recognized him for who he was. The Prince made his way to the town market and his eyes beheld new sites that worried him. The people of this town did not conduct themselves like those who inhabited the castle and its surrounding lands.
The people of this place were pushing and shoving each other. Yelling at each other, rather than speaking to each other. He saw people lying in the street and others walking by them or over them as if they weren’t there. He saw many people looking down and ignoring each other. Without saying it they seemed to say that to be alive was a burden, that other people were burdens, simply mouths to feed. He began to walk through the market scanning the faces of the crowd, and he saw that people in this town had forgotten that they were good, that life was a gift, that there was a King and that their actions mattered.
The Prince yearned to return to the castle but was bound to his fathers will to find work and lodgings and to live among them and so he did. At first life in this town was painful, the smells of sweat, animals and other odors offended him and made it hard for him to breathe. It was also hard to be in the company of others and to see how they spoke to each other. They even spoke to him in the same manner. Although he tried to reply courteously, eventually he felt within himself anger. It seemed as if people found something to be upset about even when there was nothing wrong and it grew harder to not react to the daily teasing, taunting and yelling that many people accepted as a part of life. Still he tried to set an example, by being kind to those around him and speaking about the importance of loving ones neighbor. He knew that there was a higher way of living, but most people did not listen or care and were more interested in going to the games and circuses that happened every night.
Slowly, the bad feeling in him grew and he constantly had a feeling of wanting to get away or lash out even though there was nowhere to go. The Prince started to doubt himself, to believe he was too small to withstand the darkness of the ignorance and suffering he saw all around him. He tried to hold on to the lessons he learned in the castle, but he began to think that he was only being punished for his good deeds and that his kindness was for naught. The Prince’s heart grew closed and eventually he began to despair. He became cynical. It grew harder for him to care about anything, and he began to dislike people for no reason. The cruel behavior people had toward each other, and the self destructive actions that once repulsed him, he now took for granted and even laughed at.
Over time the Prince grew so used to being spoken at and yelled at, being treated as if he were some sort of object rather than a person, that eventually he forgot his thoughts and dreams, for in this town so far from the castle, the soul did not matter. He became coarse, numb to himself, and everything around him became a joke. It had been so long since he had been at the castle, so long since he had been in the presence of the King, that he forgot how to speak the language of the castle, forgot the wisdom he learned. His robes grew encrusted with dirt and stains, tears and patches, and now resembled the mud colored coarse rags everyone else around him wore. Many years past and his life as a prince receded so far in his memory that it was but a dim dream. His mind was focused mainly on day-to-day survival and distraction with no thoughts toward anything beyond.
Things stayed this way for a very long time until one morning the Prince saw a crowd gathering along the sides of main street of the town. He asked a passerby what was happening he was told that the “King” was passing through the town and it was a special day. At first, the Prince, thought perhaps the “King” was another type of circus performer, and so he pushed close to the front of the crowd to get a better view. He saw something in the street he did not expect: uniformed soldiers with the the royal crest emblazoned on their coats. Then the eyes of the Prince went wide, and it was as if a horn blasted inside him, and his heart began to beat in his chest. The Prince, along with the rest of the crowd, stared at the proud soldiers marching in orderly lines and then following behind them came row upon row of royal Knights seated on great horses. Their silver armor gleamed in the sunlight and their bearing was regal and beautiful. Then into view came a golden carriage and in it sat a man whose being emanated love, kindness, justice and mercy — in it sat the King. It seemed as if an invisible light was radiating from the carriage, strengthening and healing all whom it touched and many of the eyes in the crowd began to tear though they knew not why. All who saw him knew that this was the King. Something was happening to him, to everyone.
In the mind of the Prince a glimmer of remembrance awoke within him and he recalled that he was the son of the King and that something terrible had happened to him. That the King was real. Love was real. Goodness was real. Truth was real. That the reality of who he was, was so much more than the person he appeared to be, the coarse person he had been acting like. That he was the Prince! He was the son of the King! The Prince began to weep for how much he had lost, how much he had forgotten, and he knew that he so badly needed to speak to the King, to let the King see who he was and there in front of him was the carriage of the King. The Prince knew that at any moment he could lose this spark of truth and that he must do something. But the Prince could not speak for he did not have the words, the high speech of the castle long forgotten. Thus he could not call out to the King, could not call out, “Father its me!” Nor could he approach the carriage slowly making its way past him, for he knew that guards would not recognize him for he no longer resembled who he once was, his face now hard, covered in dirt and lines of pain, and his clothing was the coarse, dirty, torn garments of the street folk.
All the Prince wanted was to be next to his father the King, but the carriage was getting further and further away. It felt as if his heart were going to burst in his chest and suddenly out of his mouth, from the depths of his soul, came an involuntary cry, a loud piercing wail that shocked everyone in the crowd who heard it. Every inch of his being was screaming screaming wailing, wanting so badly to return to presence of his father of the King, to return to his true self, his original being. The crowd took a few steps back but ignored the screaming man pretending he was not there. The guards around the carriage tightened their grips on their spears, watching the man, alert for any danger.
Then the carriage of the King slowed to a halt, and at some unseen signal a guard approached the King. The guard turned his ear to the King and then looked at the man weeping in the crowd and his eyes lit up with a sudden knowing, and he turned and looked closer at the pitiful man still crying still wailing. The Prince looked toward the King with bright eyes on fire, with yearning and tears, and to the surprise of all gathered there, the guard walked from the carriage to the crying man dressed in rags, stood in front of him, saluted him and then gently grasped his arm and led him to the carriage. When the King heard the sound of the cry, he knew it was his son the Prince; the King remembered this cry from when the Prince was a baby, and that was a cry he would never forget. The Prince wept and felt the strong arms of his father, the King, embrace him and pull him into the carriage. The Prince and the King were reunited and there was great rejoicing in all of the land.
The Baal Shem Tov taught that the sound of the Shofar is the sound of the Prince crying out to his father the King. It is the sound of our yearning to return to the Source of our true selves. The mitzvah of the Shofar is not about blowing a horn; it is a ritual for self realization. Rosh Hashanah is known as a day of crowning Hashem as King, a Day of Remembrance and a Day of Shofar sounding. May Hashem bless us that this Rosh Hashanah when we hear the Shofar, we remember who we are, we return to our true Source, that we reclaim our identity as children of the Divine and be written into the Book of Life.