Rabbi Waskow: Hagar’s Tale and Rosh Hashanah

Cipriana Juarez Diaz, mother of Gilberto Francisco Ramos Juarez, a Guatemalan boy who died in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas.(Luis Soto/The Associated Press)
Cipriana Juarez Diaz, mother of Gilberto Francisco Ramos Juarez, a Guatemalan boy whose decomposed body was found in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, cries during an interview at thier home in San Jose Las Flores, northern Cuchumatanes mountains, Guatemala, on Tuesday. (Luis Soto/The Associated Press)
Rabbi Arthur Waskow of The Shalom Center in Philadelphia writes about our repentance, God’s renewal, and the earth’s regeneration, based on Genesis 21, a traditional scripture reading for the Jewish New Year:

On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, the traditional Jewish Bible-reading is Genesis 21. In it, Abraham’s second wife Hagar and his first son Ishmael are sent forth from Abraham’s family, with a leather-skin of water that is not enough to meet their needs in the dry wilderness.

In extremis, Hagar gently lays Ishmael beneath a tree and begins to weep as she fears his death. (The Torah uses the word Tashlich for this laying-down, teaching us that in the Rosh Hashanah ceremony of Tashlich we are not casting our misdeeds “away” into the flowing water, but seeking to transform their energies for the sake of Life, as Hagar did.)

Then, says the Torah, Hagar’s eyes are opened, and she sees the wellspring that she names “Beer Lachai Roi, The Wellspring of the Living One Who Sees Me.” It saves their lives. As I try to see this story, it seems to me that when Hagar’s eyes were opened, her tears poured forth so fully that she herself created the wellspring.

Today, all around the world we face the death of trees and the dearth of water, the deaths of many other life-forms and millions of our own Ishmaels. Many parts of Earth are becoming as scarce of water as was the ancient Middle East. As our planet heats and scorches, our Mother Earth is parched. She can no longer pour forth from her breasts the pure water that nurtures and sustains us. …–Rabbi Arthur Waskow (Read the rest here.)

‘Drizzly November in My Soul’


Some things are best said through great literature.

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off–then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.–Herman Melville, opening of Moby Dick