A Rabbi, a Pastor and an Imam sit down on Yom Kippur to have a conversation. No, this is not the beginning of a terrible joke, it is reality; I witnessed it, and I believe it is the solution for peace.
On Yom Kippur, our Rabbi invited his friends, a local Pastor and an Imam to our services. In between our morning and afternoon service, we sat with parched mouths and growling bellies to start a dialogue.
These open-hearted spiritual leaders are part of an international network of multi-faith leaders, who are bringing their respective communities together to have discussions just like we had — to talk about our faiths, our beliefs and our values with the intent of dissolving myths, breaking down barriers while cultivating and deepening our bonds as human beings.
That’s what it takes — communication. Accepting each other’s stories, our perspectives and finding a place to meet in the middle.
When the Imam took the microphone to introduce himself, he apologized for his raspy voice; he was fasting, too. I was unaware that the holy day of Ashura falls on the same day as Yom Kippur every year. Although it has several other measures of significance, one is that the Prophet Mohammed witnessed the Jews fasting on this day and Prophet Mohammed decided to fast with them, in solidarity, perhaps?
It exists – this empathy, this compassion. And, what about the Pastor? Each week, his Evangelical church leads 10,000 people in worship. He was the one who took the mic and said, “I don’t like referring to this as inter-faith, rather multi-faith. I’m not here to convert anyone and neither are they,” as he looked to his left, at the Rabbi and Imam.
On the holiest day of the year, I watched the budding resolution for our divisiveness and xenophobia.
To atone is to act fairly, lovingly and through the eyes of G-d; to get out of our own way and listen to another way without the need to interrupt, judge and condemn. Instead, accepting what the other is expressing.
A friend recently said to me, apropos of a social media discussion (the saturation of false news and people’s incessant need to post about themselves): “But this is the way the world is going. We can’t avoid it. We need to go along with it.”
I disagree, emphatically.
G-d may have created the heavens and the earth, but we are the creators of our reality. We determine what has power and what does not. We are in charge here; we are held responsible for the state of our world. Our problems are completely man-made and so is the solution.
If we collectively decide that constantly updating our online status is destructive to our mental health and a distraction from solving the acute, systemic monstrosities of today, then our focus will shift.
That brings me to this morning — I woke up to a string of reports that 50 people were brutally murdered at a country musical festival last night in Las Vegas, by what appears to be a mentally ill, deranged 64-year-old man, who sprayed bullets over the fairgrounds from above.
We can pray and mourn this horrific attack, and we can blame this person and that person, but that’s not going to solve anything.
What we need to do is what the Rabbi, the Pastor and the Imam did — we need to sit down, those of us who are vehemently against gun ownership and those who believe in the right to bear arms.
We need to sit and have a conversation and find the middle way, because, I trust it exists. We create the state and safety of our world – G-d didn’t manufacture guns and put laws and licenses in place, we did.
This is our disaster to clean up, and I’m willing to open up a safe place to have a discussion.
How can we solve this?