Oh, and by the way, you'll also be cursed!
There's another side to this remarkable discovery. Some say that this postage stamp sized tablet may show the earliest imprinted text displaying the name of God - and the earliest by a matter of centuries. So, the Name of Names, the ultimate source of spiritual power and goodness, of morality, peace and liberation, of loving our neighbor as ourselves, comes embedded in a thicket of epithets. Ten curses, one divine name (YHW - which appears twice). It's twelve curses if you include the two times it says "you will surely die" as a couple more curses. What is the message here? Is it that you need to cut through the curses and craziness in order to discover the treasure hidden beneath? Is holiness akin to a sabra, prickly and hard on the outside but all sweetness within? Or it more like the engagement ring your dog swallowed, which needs to make it out the other end and be excavated from the doggy's dirty deposits before it can be appreciated? Or is it within the squalor of suffering humanity, where Mother Theresa asserted that God can most easily be found.
Life is messy, and so is holiness. You have to swing a few elbows at Larry Bird or slap a fellow actor (never excusable); but then, at some point, you realize that all the cussing and hitting doesn't get you anywhere - and that's when you discover God. After the hard work, the suffering, you find the Good Life. You have to clean the house for Pesach - and get rid of all the schmutz that's accumulated over the course of the year - and fill it with sublime (albeit nearly indigestible) food; only THEN can you gather for the greatest family moment of the year.
You have to get through all the things that make you curse before you can find the blessing.
Two upcoming Torah portions, which form the heart of the book of Leviticus, give us the road map: Ahare Mot / Kedoshim. Taken together it literally means "After the death, holiness." In non leap years, the portions are read together on the same Shabbat. We take that journey from the curse of death to the blessing of life, all in the course of a half hour's Torah reading. We do it at the Seder too.
And Jews aren't the only ones on this kind of journey this month from anger and epithet to peace and reconciliation.
According to the American Jewish Committee, the notoriously anti-Semitic Passion play Oberammergau was first performed in Germany in 1634, as the fulfillment of a vow made by the townspeople. In 1633, Oberammergau was struck with the bubonic plague, and many people died. The townspeople vowed that if the deaths would stop, they would perform a Passion play every ten years to show their appreciation for God. The plague ended, and the townspeople fulfilled their vow. And they continue to do so.
But the play needed to be cleaned up before it could be performed again.
For the 2022 play, originally scheduled for 2020 but delayed by the pandemic, AJC convened an Academic Advisory Group to recommend, through ongoing dialogue with the play’s leadership, additional steps in this decades-long process of ridding the play of any lingering anti-Jewish tropes. The revised play is now scheduled to premiere in May. Like the ceremony on Mt. Ebal, another scripted ritual replete with curses directed toward Jews, Oberammergau's curses have passed their expiration date. When there are no more epithets to scream and shout, only holiness remains.
Only God. In God's original form. Centuries older than any other tablet with God's ancient name. Surrounded by curses but ultimately dwarfing them.
Maybe, in this year of convergence for Ramadan, Passover and Easter, this year when we are peeking out from behind the darkest plague since that plague, the lovely view from this rounded mountain near Nablus, which can be seen below (and in other photos
), can bring us closer to a world at peace. Let's run past the curses and head straight to holiness.
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