In Search of Tikkun Olam After September 11, 2001

(The Hebrew "Tikkun Olam" refers to the spiritual obligation to mend a
broken world)

Oh eternal Source of life
Source of what connects everyone and everything
And of what disconnects:

I don't know that I can call you God
Or Adonai Eloheinu, Allah, the Tao
Or any other name for all that connects,
That makes meaning
Or that people use to separate themselves
In Your name.

But today, in my grief
I must reach out to Your one-ness
To Your many-ness
To all that exists,
Which is You, Which is us, Which is everything
All connected.
We are of you, of the universe
But we forget.
Which explains my tears today.

In this time of grief and of fear
Too great to describe in my meager words
I call out for healing to the rhythms of universal connection
To the ground and to the air and to the waters that sustain me and all who live
To the stars and planets as you vibrate in harmonies I cannot understand
To the leaves, hinting of autumn glory
To every tender exchange ever shared between people and peoples.
I call out:

Oh Oneness oh Many-ness
Please help me find strength
With so many dead to grieve at once.
Not the strength to make others afraid
Not the strength to make revenge
Not the strength to continue this cycle of evil.
That is no strength to me
But only fear and pain and righteous anger transformed,
Desecrated, perverted without healing

Oh Source of life
Oh One-ness proliferating into Many-ness
Oh Many-ness unifying the harmonies of the Universe
Oh music of stars and quarks and birds and whales
And music of many rituals observed around the world:

This is the help I ask.
To find the strength to love through my tears and my fears
To love all the dead of this dreadful time
To love all who love each and every one of them.
It's not so hard to love the passengers and crew,
Fashioned against their will into tools of others' destruction.
Not so hard to love the cleaning women and businesspeople
Easy to love heroic rescuers caught in the inferno
Crushed below so many stories so many lives.
Not so hard to love those who will never stop yearning
For their loved ones' return, never to be.

But how can I find the strength
To love the assassins? I said Kaddish for them too.
But I know that is not enough.
What anguish brought them to this terrible place?
Can I love their mothers and their orphaned sons
Some of whom will take their place
Some of whom will work for peace?
This is hard, so hard, but I must.
My world, perhaps something even greater
Depends on it.

Can I love the Palestinian boy, my cousin
Rock in hand?
Yes I can. He is a child and I love him.
But can I love the Israeli soldier who guns him down?
Can I love this child's brother
Who waits three years to take his revenge
On a bus filled with Jews?
Can I love an Israeli government who forgets
That we too once were strangers
Blamed for all wrong with the world.
This is hard, so hard, but I must.
My world, perhaps something even greater
Depends on it.

Can I love those who believe the Taliban
Crusher of women
Perverter of Islam
Will root out evil
And who are willing to die
To avenge American bombings on Arab soil?
This is hard, so hard, but I must.
My world, perhaps something even greater
Depends on it.

Can I cry enough for half a million Iraqi children
Or for my own government whose righteousness
Caused their deaths by blockade.
No milk, no penicillin, no compassion from the powerful.
Can I care enough about why so many people hate my beloved home
And stop the bombings stop the despoiling
Of Your beautiful and damaged earth?
This is hard, so hard, but I must.
My world, perhaps something even greater
Depends on it.

Oh Source of life and of all the connections in the universe
Can I care enough about the despoilers of the earth
The greedy so despised and feared
To help them to help us to help me
Know that we create our own destruction
With every soul we ignore
With every soul we reject
With every soul we hurt
With every person and every thing we use up
And throw away.

Oh eternal Source of connection and disconnection
Of life, of peace,
Of death and of hatred
Help me.
Help me find the only strength that matters.
Oh One-ness and Many-ness
We may call you Adonai Eloheinu
or Allah or the Tao or we may call you many gods
Or we may not call you at all.
Whatever we imagine to be true
Please, please
Give me the strength to help grow compassion for all
And to grow enough compassion to go around
     and around
     and around.

How else to heal a shattered world?
How else to do Tikkun Olam?
How else to heal myself?

     Jodie Kliman
     September 18, 2001
     Rosh Hashana, 5762