Don’t throw away the newspaper! Newspapers are the day-to-day records of history. Judaism has a passion for meaning. Events have meaning. What do events mean? How do changes instruct us? Look around at the world. Every event has something to teach us. As the Zohar instructed: “There is nothing in the world empty of God.”
When the Industrial Revolution took place, it overwhelmed the world of the shtetl, the Jewish village. It is told that the disciples in one shtetl asked the rabbi, “What does it mean? What can we learn from the invention of the train, the telegraph, from the telephone?” The rabbi answered, “From the train, we learn that, but for one moment, everything can be lost. Once the door of the train is closed, you miss the great journey. Pay attention! And what can you learn from the telegraph? From the telegraph you learn that every word counts. Guard your tongue! And what can you learn from the telephone? From the telephone you learn that whatever you speak here is heard there.” Words have consequences.
We live in the age of globalization–economic, political, cultural, technological globalization. What meaning does globalization have for us? It has entered our life, the life of our country, the life of world civilizations. This is the age of the Internet, satellite television, computers, cell phones, email and out-sourcing. The world is smaller and more interconnected than ever before in its history. Things move faster. Space is more constricted. Geography has shrunk. What happens in Baghdad affects Tarzana. What happens in Darfur affects Washington. What happens in Indonesia affects Iowa.
What does globalization mean? What globalization means has produced many debates and many interpretations. Historian Francis Fukuyama, in his End of History, argues that Globalism means that economics, in the future and in the present, is more powerful than politics. The Soviet Union imploded, not because a single missile was shot. The Soviet Union imploded because it could not bear the burden of its command economy. Trade unity will do what politics did not do before globalization.
On the other hand, Professor Samuel Huntington, in The Clash of Civilizations, believes that globalism not only stabilizes, but also destabilizes the world. Jihad and McWorld occur at the same time and are both linked together, driven by technology, ecology, communication, congress. Huntington foresees, not global harmony, but tribal factionalism, the clash of civilizations. The world is falling apart–the center will not hold.
How about us? Judaism is a religion of meaning. What does Judaism have to say about the phenomenon of globalization?
Rosh Hashanah speaks to the entire world because Judaism is a global religion. Consider the different calendars of religions. How do different religions mark the calendar of time? For Christianity, this is 2004 Anno Domini, the Year of Our Lord. It marks the birth of Jesus as the Son of God.
Muslims begin their calendar differently. They begin the calendar of the world with 622 A.D., which dates back to Mohammed’s Hajira, his flight from Mecca to Medina. Here history begins. But the Jewish calendar is 5765, which celebrates not the birth of a Jewish savior, not the birth of a Jewish redeemer, not a Jewish event such as the Exodus out of Egypt or the revelation of the Law at Sinai. Rosh Hashanah celebrates the birth of the universe and the birth of humanity.
Open the first pages of the book of Genesis: The first eleven chapters do not deal with a Jew–not with Abraham nor Isaac nor Jacob nor Moses nor Aaron. It deals with Adam, and Adam as the archetype of humanity. Adam is not a Jew–the name is derived from “adamah” which means “earth”. And when the sages ask, “From which place in the universe was this earth taken? Was it from Athens or Rome or Jericho?” (or Encino?)? The answer given is that it was taken from four corners of the earth: north, south, east and west. And what was the color of this clay that formed the human being? Our sages answered, “It was black, and white, and red and yellow.”
Rosh Hashanah doesn’t celebrate the birth of any particular religion–God did not create religion. God created the universe and within the universe, humanity. And the singular biblical verse which resonates throughout Judaism and world history is the verse in Genesis: chapter 1, verse 26: God created every human being–man, woman, child—in God’s image. Whatever color, whatever race, whatever ethnicity. God created every human being with Divine potentiality.
There were other traditions that believed that some people are informed by God. The Egyptian Pharaoh believed that he was God. The kings of Sumeria believed that they were gods. But in Judaism, every single human being is created by God, prince and pauper, the mighty and the weak.
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