I know, it is odd for me, a veritable caricature of a New York Jew, to restart my blog with a reference to Pope Francisco.
These have been odd days. I haven’t written much because much has been the same or, in my father’s case, declining in an incremental and mundane manner. (My siblings and I have resorted to an Olympic point system for the daily insanity/dementia status, as if it were a gymnastics events. BOB (brother of blogger) is the former USSR, with low marks. I am the USA, with high marks. SOB (sister of blogger) is Belgium or Switzerland, splitting the difference.)
On Yom Kippur, certain things resonated with me.
First, debunking a myth. Jews fast for 26 hours on Yom Kippur. If one has an easy fast, then supposedly he or she has been righteous with little need to repent. The obverse is also true, a difficult time fasting (hunger, headaches, fainting) means one has to atone for really bad stuff. As in, when we recite how we will die, “who by fire, who by flood, who by beast . . . .”, you ought to start praying for the quick and painless. I had a relatively easy fast (ok, I had a cup of coffee), and I soooo had stuff to repent for. So, midway during the fast, I knew that, easy fast be damned (ooops another sin), I should start praying for death by wild beast because it is a quick bite to the jugular and then they eat you. No pine box needed.
Second, maybe G-d who doesn’t care if people believe in G-d. Our rabbi believes in such a G-d. Believers and non-believers alike can atone and lay off the yolk of sin, for themselves or before G-d, whichever. What matters is that one owns one’s sins, resets one’s inner compass toward that which is good, right and noble. And then keeps sinning but amortizes it with good deeds. (Ok, the latter part is the Blogger Corollary.)
Finally, a person’s essential goodness can shine through all of the divisions and barricades that we humans erect to separate us from each other. I am thinking of the Holy Father. I have read about the Pope and (here comes ANOTHER Yom Kippur sin . . . ) I watched the Pope address those assembled at the White House before going to shul. I saw him greet well-wishers. I have read about his opening his home to the poor, the hungry and the outcast. And I have heard him take on the pressing issues of our time.
While I don’t agree with some of his views (seeking to limit some access to contraception under Obamacare comes to mind), I think his message is essentially to love life, do good, care for the stranger and walk humbly on this earth.
As I walked to synagogue, the Pope’s message stayed with me. Aren’t these the universal precepts of our common humanity?
And I thought, he is rightly called the Holy Father. (This coming from a Jew who has invoked G-d, Jesus and Moses in unholy ways.)
I could actually believe in a G-d who doesn’t care if a person doesn’t believe in G-d or in the G-d of Jews. People of all faiths can be holy through their hearts, souls and by their examples.
G-d bless Pope Francisco, the Holy Father of his faith.