Friday, 8 July 2011

What greatness have you come to earth to accomplish? Reflections on Hebron, the pain of dialogue and how we live ...

Gradually what I interpreted yesterday morning is shaking down, getting decanted and I can begin to remember a bit more of it.LienOne of the ideas that Rabbi Marc Raphael Guedj ended up talking about yesterday morning was weakness and strength, what is the greatness that we are called to. He got on to this subject following a question from a Palestinian participant about the spiritual importance in Judaism of Hebron. It was a genuine question in the respectful setting of dialogue, but the background was of course the present day situation in Hebron.
Guedj explained that Hebron is the place where according to tradition Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are buried. It is seen as the cave that Abraham chose to bury Sara. At one point as Guedj was saying this he said "you know myths are facts - just because they are myths doesn't mean they are not facts. We live with the reality of the resonance of old myths right up into our present time." So Hebron has this particular resonance and mythic religious quality in Judaism. And of course in Islam it has a different mythic resonance.
Guedj went on to explain that there is even a tradition in Hassidic Judaism that Adam and Eve themselves are buried in the same Hebron cave. It's therefore symbolic almost as the birthplace, the cradle of humanity.
Yet today this deeply symbolic place is fought and struggled over. A place of mystical meaning is a place of violence and contestation.
This then led to quite a spiritual reflection from two Jewish Hassidic masters, the first from Rav Ahkenazi who said "Show me what you celebrate and I will show you your weakness". The second came from Rav Zadok of Lublin who encouraged his followers to think about the greatness each of us is called to, and to consider that the greatness we are called to accomplish is in some way to repair our weakness, the weakness within us ...
Guedj then brought these two ideas together - more carefully than I am able to in my half remembered interpreters brain - in thinking about Hebron. He said, perhaps the greatness I am called to is to be present in that situation in Hebron, to repair that weakness which Judaism celebrates, to be present in the present day reality and facts of the celerbated myth. Seeing Hebron not only as the tomb of the Patriarchs but also as the cradle of humanity helps to enter into the dialectical counterpoint of weakness, greatness and celebration.
So what do I celebrate? What is my weakness? And you?