As Israel prepares for tonight's beginning of the solemn Day of Atonement- Yom Kippur- the ancient Biblically prescribed day of fasting and prayer before the Creator in seeking forgiveness of sin, we are all witnessing a planetary shaking from Wall Street to the ends of the earth. It is a shaking that can little be ignored as it is striking at the very source of all our livelihood: our currency of trade by which we obtain our sustenance. It is not a crisis like the dramatic destruction of the World Trade Center that most viewed on television sets, an event far off and directly touching relatively few, so that it became like a forgotten film epic like any other, perhaps even less real. Though that attack on the mainland of America by Arab Muslim Jihadis was on a scale greater than Pearl Harbor, it led to a short period of churches being filled and prayer heard nationwide, but as the effects wore off, the churches emptied and it was business as usual. Even so that the business included the onward march of political forces removing prayer and the Ten Commandments from public places and schools, the struggle for even greater freedom to abort the lives of babies in the womb, the legalization of same sex marriage, the increasing flow of ever more bold pornography in that burgeoning industry, the eroding of the Judeo-Christian values that have been the foundation of the successful American experiment in the Land of the Free. And all this leading to massive increase in divorces and destruction of the family both outside and within churches and, to the denial of elitist "experts", blood in the school corridors on a regular basis. Though America has been spared all these years yet another major attack on its soil- something certainly not attributable to the good intentions of the world Jihad- there has been little but harsh criticism of the policies that have prevented that from happening again (thank G-d).
No, this time it is the U.S. dollar that is being shaken, and therefore the euro, the franc, the yen, the pound, the mark and the ruble, among others. Giant American financial institutions of great longevity that had perhaps stood as virtual religious institutions rivaling any church, collapsed before our eyes in a day- not unlike the World Trade Center- and fortunes of money simply evaporated. The effects, like an earthquake, are still rippling out across the globe, the consequences yet to be seen.
Just a short time before this financial crisis, some of the same folks who had attempted to use the American judicial system to remove "one nation under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, brought forth to the same their objection to the words, "In God We Trust" on American currency. The U.S. is the only nation to have this reminder on its legal tender. It is not known by all that there is no longer real gold or silver that gives value to that currency, and in reply to my own query directly to the Federal Reserve not long ago as to what it is that does give value to these pieces of paper that some kill for, I was told: "Faith".
The Exodus story in the Bible tells of ten plagues striking Egypt, each one, after its initial shock and then return to normalcy, ignored by the Egyptian leadership and therefore the Egyptian population. The effects of each plague upon crops, livestock, and water sources could be explained away along with the warning. Finally the plagues grew more frequent and drew closer to the home of each individual, until the final which would affect the disobedient on the most personal level. We have beheld in recent years catastrophic storms destroy American cities, an increase in violent crime as irrational as pointless driveby shootings and mass murders in schools and shopping malls, and the advent of devastating plagues such as AIDS. And all this in a nation blessed with abundance and freedom and opportunity for its citizens far above any nation in history. It is a nation that few seek to leave, but that many flee to for deliverance and blessing. Perhaps "this too shall pass" and we shall all again return to a period of quiet and "normalcy". And perhaps not. But perhaps we should see this as an opportunity for some real soul searching in response to what we see occurring before our eyes in the present, and learn from the events and Wisdom of the past, rather than repeating the mistakes of the past. In this opportunity of a time for reflection, might it not be wise to consider better understanding the means by which the obedient would be delivered from the plagues of Egypt- the Lamb by whose sacrifice deliverance and atonement would be provided- rather than return again to "business as usual"?
This evening the entire State of Israel will stop all its activities for the Day of Atonement (except for emergency and security services). Its cities will be silent and the streets empty of vehicles. There will be no music or dance, and most will neither eat nor drink. We here in Jerusalem will seek the face of the Creator and intercede for many that they may be revealed "the Lamb of G-d who takes away the sin of the world", that we might return to paths of Life, of peace and prosperity and purity and goodness and honesty and love.