Saturday, October 04, 2014

Defining the Sacred

We're in the midst of the Jewish High Holy Days at the moment, the time of year when we, as Jews, are supposed to account for our actions over the past year, atone for our sins, pray, fast, and eat (not necessarily in that order).

Although I stopped being Shomer Shabbos (Sabbath observing) many years ago, and I don't follow all the laws of Kashruth (kosher diet), I do observe Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) to some extent. I have often explained to people who I won't eat something or do something on a particular day, citing my religious observance as the reason.

Some find this odd. After all, I am not what one would call a religious person. But saying that you are doing something because of religion seems to label you as such.

So, what gives?

I used to say that I do a few token things that connect me with my heritage, because we live in a world where nothing is sacred.

This was met with objection by someone once. She said she goes to environmental rallies because she holds the environment to be sacred, for example.

I stood corrected. I was equating "sacred" with "religious."

What is truly sacred in the world, is what is sacred to us.

Over the years, I have found that attending rallies on social causes and taking a stand for social justice is a direct expression of my spirituality - even though such things are not part of the 613 Commandments that make up the Jewish Code of Law, for example.

Social justice, to me, is sacred.

Perhaps instead of nothing being sacred, nothing is universally sacred, as was pointed out to me this morning when chatting on this topic.

What is sacred to you?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This strikes a particular chord with me as I have had at times a deeply spiritual relationship with nature, whose beauty and majesty refreshes my soul when I immerse myself in it. I worked for a time in the mountains of the Yukon and was often struck by the sheer enormity of the landscape, the nobility of the wildlife and the greatness of creation. For me that land is sacred. At odds with this reverance was the nature of my job: I was prospecting for minerals, and if I was successful I knew the desecration of those mountains would follow as mining companies move in and exploit the resources I would help them discover. I took some solace in the protection of the most fragile and pure land, the St. Elias mountains and the North slope, where the Peel and Porcupine rivers flow. Twenty-five years ago most of the mountains were barely explored, litle had been staked and it seemed that some development would be a good thing, people have to eat after all and the mining companies were mostly small and locally owned, employing local people who had for the most part proven responsible. Things have changed since NAFTA. Now there are many large American corporations operating in the Yukon, most of which are run remotely by executives who have never been to the mine sites and who consider their obligation to their shareholders paramount and the environment expendable. Recently the Yukon government opened up the peel watershed to virtually limitless mining and fracking for natural gas. Things are sacred to each of us as individuals, but there is nothing universally sacred, and people with different values will gladly desecrate what we treasure and revere. That is truly a shame.