Getting to know the Left Side (Shabbat in Berkeley and Post-Purim)


Ched Myers mentioned the other day that “if you don’t know the left side, you won’t understand the right side.”  Having just walked in the room as he was speaking this quote at the Bartimaeus Institute about wealth inequality, I thought he was talking about sides of US politics.  But he was talking about the Biblical text. Left side, Hebrew Scriptures. Right side, the Christian additions of Gospels, letters, and meaning-full stories.

Since living in Jerusalem as a budding liberation theologian in 2011, I’ve enjoyed questioning and challenging (and deepening?) my Christocentric orientation through serious time spent with young progressive Jewish, liberal Muslim, and activist Bahá’í theologians.  I learned more about the left side as well as the right side…what’s more, script that build on both sides (e.g., Qu’ranic texts and Bahá’í prayers).  I love it, and feel my faith journey greatly enriched by my companions in other communities and denominational/religious traditions. Here in California, I’m blessed to encounter Buddhist, Hindu, and universalist/spiritual thinkers more closely…happily  waiting for friendship based on our shared seeker status (a claim that there is more going on than just the material world) to form.

Michael Lerner, like Ched, has written a bunch of books and helped spark thousands of necessary conversations about the human journey with God and one another (collective and personal).  It was great to be with the community that gathers in Berkeley, holding the tikkun olam (mending of the world) at the center of desire and practice.


Today we examined the intricacies of the context and community events (e.g. golden calf scenario) surrounding the two sets of Ten Speech Acts (10 Commandments) as detailed in Exodus 32…and various leadership responses in the context of dealing with a distressed people coming off mountain-top-like experiences of liberation.  Old story, yet Very. Applicable. Stuff.  The two sets can symbolize the great yin-yang dynamic of it ALL: the social world’s deep imperfections and simultaneous wholeness, and human invitation to internalize and reflect divine compassion as we encounter trauma.

Ojai Synagogue Art

I love this image of the megillah (scroll). It’s on the wall of the Ojai Synagogue where I joined the tiny congregation for the Purim 2013 festivities (quite a contrast to my first experience of the Purim ruckus in Jerusalem).  I gazed at the emanating scroll and remembered the wisdom Ruhi shared with me last year in Jerusalem with the Jewish renewal group Nava Tehila, as we whrilled our groggers at the sound of Haman’s name read in the megillah. Some congregations no longer read to the end of it where bloody revenge is enacted.  As a pacifist, this intrigued me. One commentator was working with this idea recently in a post over at The Daily Beast.  The article builds on Ruhi’s timely statement that “after the fear of Mordechai was throughout the land,”  the Jews of ancient Persia could have done some serious nonviolent reconciliation work with their neighbors.

Given the violence in the world system, when others around us fear us out of a realization of the power we channel from God, may we stop, think/pray, and then use that precarious moment to do serious reconciliation work…not kill each other. May we all commit again at this year’s Purim to blot out amalek and violent fragmentation at all levels and dimensions of our lives (collectively and personally).

To all my Muslim, Bahá’í, and Jewish theological companions, thank you.  It is wonderful to feel connections and the tensions in the broad range of our shared stories, talking them through together towards a shared future.

About SEN

Born on United Nations Day, I am actively involved in the process of figuring out how we can live together well on this planet, given our similar and different truth claims. Thanks for joining me on the journey!

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