‘”Amen.” It is not a natural utterance. You must learn to say it.” (Kaddish, Leon Wieseltier, p. 468.) Many believe that amen is a statement of confirmation, as in “this is my life – amen.” Others believe that amen is a statement of affirmation, as in “this is the greatness in my life – amen.” Those who study the word a bit more closely understand that amen contains a strong element of fatalism, as in “Is this my life – amen?”
To recite amen with conviction, the proclaimer must take a long journey. The present has not context without the immediate and often the far past. The journey begins by revisiting the past, not with nostalgia but with clarity. The journey continues with the present and where one stands now and just as importantly, why. Then there is the future and one’s hopes, expectations and fears. Bring all of these explorations together and the word amen falls easily from the lips.
Sound so simple on paper, simply do this or that. Yet amen is the hardest word a person will utter. Amen.
Interfaith relations in the United States is a convoluted mess of perceptions, international conflicts, and xenophobia. The Pew Trust has released their latest survey of American attitudes towards various religions and no one scores particularly well.
As anyone who works in the field of interfaith relations will confirm, there is a vast difference between doctrinal relations and personal relations between clergy and between informed laity. The doctrinal is always more contentious as mistrust and triumphalism infuse the statements of faith and belief. These relations are usually led by Defenders of the Faith
The best and most productive is the one-to-one relationships between believers of one tradition and another. This is a self-selecting group who meet other traditions a variety of reasons. Some want to explain themselves, some are curious to learn what others believe and a good number seek out other faiths in hope of better informing their own religious beliefs.
Religion can build bridges. Religion should build bridges and yet, religion often does the opposite. This is what Pew found:
Over the long weekend in the USA, an Indian hacker released nude pics of A-List celebrities on 4Chan and on Reddit, large social networks. An uproar ensued over privacy, personal rights, and widespread prurient interest in examples of naked females. The hacker is fleeing incarceration and has promised more stills to anyone willing to pay in bitcoins.
Pictures of naked people are “naughty” as the Brits would say. Many artists would argue that eroticism of the human form is a severe and limiting use of the body. The nude body can express a universe of emotion and of ideas that have little to do with sex. This episode has no redeeming artistic value though. The release of these photos is exploitation and profit.
While human life is upheld as the utmost of sacredness, the human body is not treated the same. Judaism does not recognize shame for the naked form nor vanity of its presentation in a non-exploitative circumstance. God gave you this body and because it is God-given even with its flaws and imperfections, the body is inherently good.
The body is a tool. It holds hands and manipulates tools. The body acts out deeds of love and friendship and raises up to meet threats and adversity. This is how we were created.
Modesty is a much maligned virtue these days until someone’s nude pics are posted are the internet against their wishes. Celebrate your bodies with those you love and avoid sharing or even the possibility of sharing with the rest of the world. This advice does not rise to the level of a religious dictate, the suggestion is simple common sense.