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Thursday, July 20, 2017

May I Be Happy, May I Be Well

Written by  Rabbi Jan Dodi

This morning we studied a Bible story about Pinchas. He used violence to stop a plague that God brought upon the Israelites because of their behaviors with the local people. In response to his violent act, God gave him the blessing of eternal shalom, peace. Such a strange reward for a very violent act. What does this story teach? That if you act violently, with God in mind, that you are doing the correct thing? I sure do hope not. We see too much of this in the news everyday.

We have so many killing in the name of their gods. Wars are started with this notion. Families are divided over this zealousness. People take to the streets proclaiming that they know what their gods are telling them to do. How can we argue this? How do you tell someone that what they think is the word of their god is just a voice in their head? And yet, we do.

So, today, at our prayer service we looked at the reward for zealousness (and use of extreme anger) and how we need to make a change. We need to find a way to diffuse the anger within ourselves and the anger in others. It was thought that the anger Pinchas had towards the “others” and their actions are what brought about his violent behavior. If he was not so angry, he might have confronted the situation differently. But the Bible story is there for a reason. It was written down for us to try to struggle with the juxtaposition of reward and violent behavior.

So we went around the room talking about the things that make us angry. The things we encounter each day. Whether it is the political news, the health care mess, the killings on our streets in Baltimore (and other cities), the inequality of riches, the daily struggle of making a living, and on and on. The list got longer and longer as we went around our circle.

And then we stopped and looked at ourselves. What anger do we carry with ourselves when we leave our homes each day? How does this anger manifest itself out in the community, our work, and even our shopping experiences that we encounter. But the biggest question was, how do we face our internal anger and change it for ourselves and for those we meet so that we do not carrying it around in ourselves. We spent some time looking inward. What can we do differently to change our lives?

We were lead in a “metta” meditation. We started with repeating the phrases:

May I be happy.
May I be well.
May I be safe.
May I be peaceful and at ease.

After taking this in and meditating on this for a few minutes, we moved on to:

May you be happy.
May you be well.
May you be safe.
May you be peaceful and at ease.

When we think about our behaviors, we have to begin deep inside. When we asked “May you …” we started thinking about someone we truly love and wished them happiness, well-being, safety, and peace. We then opened our circle to someone who may have hurt us a little, someone we are a little bit distant from emotionally. We went from this to someone who hurt us a lot. Each time trying to allow ourselves to heal from the experiences of hurt and anger. Does it happen immediately? Of course not. Will it happen over time? I am sure it will.

So I leave you with may you be peaceful and at ease.

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