Saturday, January 17, 2009

Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu--Peace Will Come


Last night I visited the Western Wall to welcome in the Sabbath. Often called the Wailing Wall or the Kotel, this stretch of wall is the last remaining remnant of the massive retaining wall that once supported the plaza on which Herod's Temple stood. Jews of all nations regard this site as the holiest place on earth, the nearest they can get to the presence of God. Here they hold bar mitzvahs and usher their young men into the bonds of the covenant. Here they rejoice and dance and sing. Here they pray and supplicate and mourn the destruction of their Holy Temple. Here all of Jewish society and religion come together. It is a beautiful place--not because of the wall, which is fairly ordinary, albeit massive. Its beauty is in the spirit of the place--a spirit of love, a spirit of peace, a spirit of reverence coupled perfectly with exuberance, of mourning and hope and rejoicing singing together in perfect harmony.

After I had spent some time alone in prayer and quiet contemplation, I joined a group that was singing and dancing. Most of the words were in Hebrew, and the tunes were unfamiliar, but their feeling was unmistakable. The words quickly became comforting, and the dancing drew me in.

There is something very compelling about a traditional group song and dance. Standing in a circle, the participants unite in an uncommon way--for a few moments, they all sing and move as one. Those standing on the outskirts of the circle are quickly drawn into the group, which embraces complete strangers as easily as it does close friends. Those in the know teach the newcomers, and no one feels left out or confused for long.

After a few songs, the group started singing "Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu," a beautiful song whose words mean simply, "peace will come upon us, and upon everyone." As we danced and sang this beautiful song, I began to cry. I wept because of the simplicity of this song, this prayer. The youth were crying out for peace, and they were doing it in a place of so much conflict, not only in this land in general, but specifically at the wall by which they stood. That wall is the only remnant of an ancient war, a piece of the "mountain of the Lord's house," built in Jerusalem, "the city of peace," the city of so much conflict. And they were showing the world the way to peace by the way they were dancing. Their dance took in everyone--whatever our nationality or religion, we all wanted peace. Their dance epitomized acceptance and friendship--it demonstrated the sort of care and love that has no preconditions. Their dance brought us to rejoice and pray together. It brought the sort of peace that is more than the absence of conflict--it is the presence of love.

This city--and this world--needs a little more of the peace they were singing about. It needs more than a cease-fire. It needs the sort of peace that engenders friendship and destroys contention. It needs more inclusivity, more care, less cynicism, less fear. It needs more joy and rejoicing in our Lord, who is the Prince of Peace. It needs more circles that bring strangers in and embrace them rather than shutting them out. It needs more camraderie, more of a realization that we are all spirit children of the same Heavenly Father.

My experience at the Wall last night was one of peace--of people at peace with themselves, with others, and with their God, welcoming in the Sabbath, the day of peace and rest, at the Lord's house, which is the dwelling-place of God's peace. It was the peace that goes beyond not fighting with your neighbors and extends to seeing them as partners, and as friends. It was the peace that comes from a nearness with God, for the closer we get to Him, the more we love His children. It was a peace that comes not from solitary and quiet contemplation but from united and exuberant rejoicing and prayer. Though my ears were filled with sounds, my heart at last was still.

I pray for peace to rest upon Jerusalem. But more importantly, I pray that you all might rejoice in our Father's goodness and thus be embraced by the peace that comes only in and through Him. I know that the answers to all life's conflicts--both great and small--are to be found in the Lord, the Prince of Peace, who will "arise with healing in his wings" (Malachi 4:2), and teach us to "beat [our] swords into plowshares, and [our] spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall [we] learn war any more" (Isaiah 2:4). Through Him, Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu--I know that peace will come upon us, and the whole world.

Picture from http://www.benjohnsonartist.com

2 comments:

  1. Beautifully written. I am so happy that you are able to be there and experience all of these things. What a wonderful experience. It is good to hear about something that is joyous and peaceful happening over there amidst all of the bad reports.

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  2. I stumbled upon your blog and was taken in by the beautiful way in which you wrote about your experience at the Kotel, the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. It is nice to know that people of other faiths can appreciate our holy sites and recognize the significance of these places to the entire world. Thank you for your blessings for peace and may the G-d of Israel bless you with peace as well.

    Jacob

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