Greetings from Israel!
Yesterday my daughter Karen and I boarded a flight at Dulles about 2:a.m. Israeli and arrived in Tel Aviv about 12½ hours later. We picked up our rental car and drove to our hotel near the Mediterranean Sea just before the beginning of Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath.
Karen is a professor at the University of Arizona (UA) and the director of the Religious Studies Program there. UA is one of five universities doing research on "Religion, Secularism, and Political Belonging."
Tel Aviv University, one of the institutions in the project, is hosting a meeting of representatives from the five schools on June 23-25. Karen, who was being sent to the conference by UA, invited me to go along—and so here we are!
|Welcome sign in Tel Aviv airport (June 19, 2015)|
As we neither one of us had been to Israel before, we decided to go a few days early in order to do some sightseeing before her meetings begin. Today (Saturday) we plan to drive to Nazareth and then in the evening drive on to Tiberius where we have a hotel booked near the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
Mark Levin, a retired Jewish rabbi and active civic leader in the greater Kansas City area, is a new friend/acquaintance. We sat at the same table at a community event last month and had a long telephone conversation after that.
Among other things, we talked about timshel , the key word in Steinbeck’s East of Eden, which I wrote about here (Rabbi Levin confirmed Steinbeck’s interpretation), and about tikkun olam the Hebrew phrase that means “repairing the world.”
I was somewhat familiar with that term tikkun because of Jim Wallis and his friendship/corroboration with Rabbi Michael Lerner in California who is the editor of a quarterly interfaith Jewish magazine by that name.
Rabbi Levin suggested I read the Wikipedia article about tikkun olam. According to that article, “Jews believe that performing of ritual mitzvot (good deeds, commandments, connections, or religious obligations) is a means of tikkun olam, helping to perfect the world, and that the performance of more mitzvot will hasten the coming of the Messiah and the Messianic Age.”
This is closely related to Shabbat. The same article goes on to state,
Some explain the power of Shabbat by its effect on the other six days of the week and their role in moving society towards the Messianic Age. Shabbat helps bring about the Messianic Age because Shabbat rest energizes Jews to work harder to bring the Messianic Age nearer during the six working days of the week. Because the experience of Shabbat gives one a foretaste of the Messianic Age, observance of Shabbat also helps Jews renew their commitment to bring about a world where love and mercy will reign.
I was intrigued by what Rabbi Levin posted on Facebook late last Saturday afternoon: “As another shabbat is about to end, we Jews will pray for the messianic redemption of the world, by invoking Elijah the prophet, who, at least at this moment, did not appear this shabbat. We have to wait another week for a perfected world.”
Tikkun’s website states, “We are committed to full and complete reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinian people within the context of social justice for the Palestinians and security for Israel.”
So as Shabbat is celebrated here in Israel today, whether the messenger Elijah appears or not, I pray that this will be a part of the perfected world that Jews, and many of us who are not Jews, eagerly long for.
|Sunset on Mediterranean Sea (just before Shabbat began on June 19)|