Yom Kippur/ St. Francis/ Eid al-Idha: Invoking Universal Unity

Yom Kippur/ St. Francis/ Eid al-Idha: Invoking Universal Unity

by Rabbi Arthur Waskow


In every year, Yom Kippur calls us beyond the ordinary. Jewish tradition calls it Shabbat shabbaton: sabbatical rest to the exponential power of reflective restfulness.

Yet this year, even fuller: For Yom Kippur falls on Shabbat. And this whole year, the Shmita year when adam (human earthlings) are to share rest with adamah (earthy humus), is called by the Torah Shabbat shabbaton. To how many exponential levels does that take us?

And this year, it doesn’t even stop there. For just as Jews are observing the Great Fast, Muslims are observing their Great Feast – Eid al-Idha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, in memory of how Ibrahim prepared to offer up his son Ismail in response to God’s calling, when at the last moment the Holy Voice told him to relent and he offered up a ram instead. This memory, of course, shares the story that Jews have just told on Rosh Hashanah– with the differences that often arise in how different branches of a family remember a powerful family story.

Traditionally, on Eid al-Idha Muslim families buy a lamb to be slaughtered and divide its meat in thirds — one-third to the immediate family, one-third to the extended family, one-third to the poor — a teaching that might be heard as “Do not kill your children; feed the poor!” A teaching to us all about war and compassion. A physical act carrying the same message as the Isaiah Haftarah for Yom Kippur.

And even more! October 4 is for Catholics and many other Christians the day for remembering and honoring St. Francis of Assisi. The present Pope chose to affirm Francis not only in naming himself but in living simply and preaching compassionately. St. Francis went to Cairo to study with Muslims how they prayed, in order to deepen his own prayer. He committed a holy act of both heresy and treason by opposing the Crusades. And he was deeply in touch with the more-than-human life of all the Earth.

What’s more –- I can hardly believe the fullness of this convergence – this coming Sunday, October 5, is in the practice of the World Council of Churches “World Communion Sunday.” The different Protestant churches view Communion in different ways, but all the members of the WCC have agreed to celebrate and honor it once a year on the same Sunday.

So this is a moment when the Abrahamic communities all yearn toward a universal Unity. And this is the year when we see the beginnings of a Great Turning toward healing of the Earth, in societies — especially the United States –— that have before this shrugged off the unifying connection between adam and adamah.

In honor of this deep tug toward the truth of our interconnectedness, I have written the Invocation that follows. It is rooted in the Jewish invocation of God’s Oneness, called the Sh’ma – but goes even further into a universal phrasing. It draws especially on the second paragraph of the Sh’ma, which insists that the Flow of life in rain and rivers, wind and wheat, continues only if we stay aware and act upon the Interbreathing of all life.

We offer it in the hope that all communities of faith and Spirit might find it healing in this weekend, this year, this life.

Invocation of the Universal Unity:

Hush’sh’sh and Listen, all peoples –
Pause from your busy-ness
and hush’sh’sh
To hear — Yahhhhhh,
The One Breath of Life –
For all breath is One:

We breathe in what the trees breathe out,
And the trees breathe in what we breathe out.

Hear in the stillness the still silent voice,
The silent breathing that intertwines life.

If we Breathe in the quiet,
Interbreathe with all Life
Still small Voice of us all ——
We will feel the Connections;
We will make the connections
And the rain will fall rightly
The grains will grow rightly
And the rivers will run:
All creatures will eat well in harmony,
Earthlings / good Earth.

But if we break the One Breath into pieces
And erect into idols these pieces of Truth,
And choose these mere pieces to worship:
gods of race or of nation
gods of wealth and of power,
gods of greed and addiction –
Big Oil or Big Coal –
If we Do and we Make and Produce

without Pausing to Be;

If we heat the One Breath with our burnings —
Then the Breath will flare up into scorching,
The corn will parch in the field,
The poor will find little to eat,
Great ice fields will melt
And great storms will erupt:
Floods will drown our homes and our cities,
And the Breath, Holy Wind, Holy Spirit
Will become a Hurricane of Disaster.

What must we do?
Connect what we see with our eyes
To what we do with our hands.
Turn to sun and to wind
To empower all peoples.

Then the grass will grow,
The forests will flourish,
And all life will weave the future in fullness.

Honor the web that all of us weave —
Breathe together the Breath of all Life.

[The community simply breathes quietly for several minutes, staying aware that each breath comes from all Breath.]


Please visit Rabbi Waskow’s site The Shalom Center https://theshalomcenter.org/ where you will find many resources for interfaith dialogue and mutual respect between the Abrahamic faiths.


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