A Covenant of Hope

Yoni A. Dahlen
May 6, 2013
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The daily life of modern man presents a horrific picture of a seemingly irreversible reality.  An unending ambush of terror and intolerance denies any attempt for normalcy; suicide bombings in Iraq and Pakistan, nuclear rhetoric in the East, mass shootings in schools and malls in the United States.  The insanity is overwhelming.  Yet the true tragedy of our age is not found in the senseless acts of violence themselves, but rather in the call to surrender to the darkness of our time.

The nature of humanity is one of beauty and appreciation, of love and respect.  Man is linked to a covenant of existence, and through this covenant She is made holy.  By laying down in the shadow of evil, by closing our eyes to the challenge of pain and suffering, we erase our names from the covenant of life and are holy no more.

The prophets of the Hebrew Bible faced the existential threat of their day with an authoritative warning of the consequences of darkness.   Israel had wandered astray from the path of goodness and had cleaved to the cults of child sacrifices and hedonism which appealed to her.  The depth and profundity of ancestral culture and tradition withered under the allure of strength and power, and the ethical call of the ancient covenant was left subservient to wealth and status.

“What could I possibly do for you, Ephraim?
What can you expect from me, Judah?
When your love and goodness is like a morning cloud?
Like a dew that lays and quickly vanishes?” (Hosea 6:4)

Yet the voice of the prophet calls not for immediate return and repentance.  The prophets understood that the promise of death and damnation cannot tether the heart to paths of righteousness.  Rather, the plea is one of reflection and understanding.  The prophets maintained that Israel had not fled from a life of stifling laws and burdensome expectations, that this image of their ancestors’ faith was fundamentally incorrect.  The truth of their heritage is a sacred commandment of goodness.  It is this goodness that was abandoned, and it is goodness that must be reclaimed.

“For I desire chesed, not sacrifice;
Knowledge of God, not burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:5)

“Seek good and not evil,
That you may live
And HaShem, the Lord of Hosts shall be with you
As you have previously thought.
Hate evil and love good,
And establish justice at the gate…” (Amos 5:14-15)

As in the days of Hosea and Amos, the terrible deviation from the road of love and kindness seems unavoidable.  How can we stand strong when our knees tremble before the towering wall of injustice?  And yet, the spark of holiness within us refuses to be extinguished.

For every moment of hatred and oppression, there are untold tales of defiance and courage.  With every drop of a blood there are a million tears to wash it clean.  While the evil of this world rejoices in the fear and despair it reaps, the holiness of Man clings to the  power of an ancient promise.  It is through this unbreakable bond – towards a better future, towards a forgotten understanding, that we affirm the sanctity of our existence.  In this day, when the heavens and earth serve as witnesses against us, that before us are the choices of life and death, blessings and curses, we announce together that we will not succumb to despair.  With all of the love and holiness within us… we choose life.

Dedicated to the city of Boston.  Once my home and forever in my heart. May strength and love shine through the rubble of hatred. #BostonStrong 

“Arise, shine, for your light has dawned;
The glory of HaShem has shone upon you!
For it is unavoidable; darkness shall cover the earth,
And thick clouds shall blind the people;

But upon you HaShem will shine,
And his glory will be seen over you.
And the wayward ones shall walk by your light,
And kings by your brilliant radiance!” (Jeremiah 60:1-3)

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Yoni A. Dahlen is a rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York City. He attended Brandeis University where he received a Masters of Arts in Jewish Philosophy. Pursuing a career in academia, his topics of interest include Jewish mysticism, political theology, and the religiosity of Labor Zionism. He currently lives in Jerusalem.

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