Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah – Chol HaMo-eid Sukkot

V’chititu charvotam l’itim v’chinatotaehem l’mazmerot. Lo yisa goy el goy cherev, v’lo yilmadu od milchamah.” The prophets Isaiah (2:4) and Micah (4:3) spoke, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, and no one will study war again. A day will come when humanity will realize that there cannot be peace for one and not for the other. Many religious songwriters turned this sentence into music, imploring humanity to turn to peace. The tools of destruction must transform into the tools of farming, construction, and community building. Still, though, I watch as the most “religious people” insist on possessing their personal weapons, vowing a willingness to use them against their own nation. I find perplexing the number of people who read these words from the prophets in their house of worship and walk out returning home to brandish their weaponry proudly. Politicians vowing to remove guns from circulation, to make the words of the Biblical prophets come true suffer abuse and ridicule. I am tired.

This weekend, we find ourselves culminating our celebration of the Messianic holiday of Sukkot. Tradition teaches that as the earth is preparing to sleep we have to have enough faith to know that it will renew. As we look out our windows, however bleak it looks, we know that hope is eternal. This faith, when expressed in the world, will bring on the Messianic Age. Faith is the tool that, when loving used, will change the universe. Whatever one’s religion or tradition, we believe that faith in a world of freedom, peace, and a healthy eco-system will make them real.

So, I juxtapose the fear and arrogance that makes people hold on to these weapons, arguing that their desires for arms are more important than the very faith they espouse, and it is no wonder why religion is in such trouble. How can one pray for peace and zealously defend having their weapons of destruction? Do their ears here what their mouths are saying?

Yehuda Amichai, an Israeli poet, offered a thought. If we ever could curtail weapon ownership and turn them from war to regeneration, we should not stop there. The further removed from war are these tools, the better and safer our world will be.

“Don’t stop after beating the swords into plowshares; don’t stop! Go on beating and make musical instruments out of them. Whoever wants to make war again will have to turn them into plowshares first.”

This weekend, we will celebrate the holiday Simchat Torah. We complete the final verses of Deuteronomy and immediately begin reading Genesis – a never-ending cycle. We will continue this cycle until we earn the Age of Peace. As we observe this last Shabbat of the holiday and the Torah cycle, we will read from the prophet Ezekiel. This prophet wants one extra layer of security for the world. He argues, “Then the inhabitants of the cities of Israel will go out and make fires and feed them with the weapons—shields and bucklers, bows and arrows, clubs and spears; they shall use them as fuel. They will not gather firewood in the fields or cut any in the forests, but will use the weapons as fuel for their fires.” (39:9-10) Even beating them into musical instruments is not enough. If we want the Messianic Age, we must burn our weapons; destroyed beyond reclamation. When showing our steadfast commitment to peace and each other’s dignity, we will transform the universe will change, and we will taste the world to come. From Isaiah (54:10), The mountains are shaken and the hills are removed. My unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says Adonai, who has compassion on you.” If we are going to pray for peace – let’s do the work of making peace real. Shabbat Shalom and Chag sameach and Shabbat Shalom.