The time of the new year is drawing close: Rosh HaShanah begins Monday evening. The process of preparation tests us. For the whole previous month, we dive into the river of time, poking under rocks and peering into dark places, making our soul inventory. Our missteps and misdeeds float to the surface, demanding to be rectified. The tradition teaches that through right action and repentance, through aligning our intentions with the source of life, we can redeem even the greatest sins, converting their destructive power to healing energies.
Paddling around in my personal past, I raise my head and notice that many things have disturbed the surface of our national pond. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the present administration is imploding from the weight of its own deceptions and betrayals. All around us the mighty are falling: Frist, DeLay, Libby, the president himself dropping to the bottom of the polls that govern our debased democracy. None of these men is Jewish, but I can’t help feeling the character of this time of year–the same energies that spur me to seek the broken places in my own life, to air and mend them–has a hand in it.
Proverbs 25:19 says this: “Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.” Like the kind of injury that dogs every step, the reminders of our nation’s misplaced faith are constant. Yet I worry whether change will follow. It seems to me that half the process has been in train, exposing what needs to be put right. But the turning, the reorientation that is needed to heal our body politic has not yet emerged.
What is missing, I think, is the strong, clear voice of ethical reason that can galvanize our redemptive intention, turning us to action. I pinch myself each time I see that regardless of how weakened President Bush has become through his own poor choices, the opposition Democrats continue to grant him nearly everything he wishes, including a Chief Justice who will most likely shape our national legal culture for decades.
It may be that due to the corruption of the political system, no one will arise who has already been anointed by the electorate, at least not immediately. This week, as I watched No Direction Home, Martin Scorsese’s masterful PBS documentary on Bob Dylan, I began to think it could be an artist who emerges to speak for us. I remembered how my hair stood on end the first time I heard “Masters of War” and “Hard Rain.” I felt it again. If you’re in my sixties cohort, listen to them again. If you’ve never heard these songs, please listen now.
During the High Holy Days, as I pray for myself and for those closest to me, I will also be praying for my country, that we will have ridden this river or greed and lies to its end, and our journey to redemption has begun.