The Hebrew phrase "Hallelu-YAH!" means, "Let us praise the Breath of Life!" Sometimes the Breath/ Wind/ Spirit of the world comes as a Hurricane of change. We shake with awe. And if the Hurricane knocks down pyramids of arrogance and power, we can praise God in joy.
And so today, when a modern Pharaoh fell. Today, 8 Safar in the Hijri (Muslim) calendar; February 11, 7 Adar-Aleph, in the Western and Jewish calendars.
Hundreds of our readers and members this past week joined in writing President Obama to urge that he insist that Mubarak go –- and take his vice-president, the Torturer-General of Egypt – with him.
I am sure this helped. But only helped. It was the nonviolent power of a people awakened, the Breath of the Egyptian millions breathing in nonviolent concert, that has taken the first step toward freedom. But of course that is only the beginning.
There is a strange song in the Passover Seder that celebrates the overthrow of a Pharaoh. It goes:
If we had gotten to the Red Sea but it had not split to let us through, Dayenu! – That would have been enough for us! ---
If we had gotten to Mount Sinai but no Torah had been revealed, Dayenu! – That would have been enough for us! ---
And so on for 15 verses, each ending with the chorus, Dayenu! – That would have been enough for us! ---
At first reading, this seems ridiculous. It would NOT have been enough.
But on deeper reflection, we realize that after every victory, we should pause to celebrate. Another verse will come, another step must still be taken. But if we never celebrate, we will burn out before we can take the next breath, the next step. "Dayenu" in the song is like Shabbat in the week. Pause, sing, dance, catch your breath, reflect, learn, love. The work-week will come, must come, soon enough.
The fall of Mubarak is only the beginning. Birthing an Egypt that is free and democratic, that does not build its government on American military aid, that can pursue a true peace with Israel that includes peace for and from and with the Palestinians led by their own freely chosen government (as Sadat of Egypt tried to achieve in 1979 but
was thwarted by Israeli Prime Minisater Begin)-- each step must now be taken.
Birthing an America that will encourage a New Israel to be born that takes the birth of a New Egypt as a signal to free itself from the iron cage of “stability”;
Birthing an America that does not build its own security abroad and prop up its own government's political support at home through hundreds of billions of dollars and gallons of blood in hundreds of military bases and decades of war, but can join at home and abroad in a planetary eco-community of sharing jobs and sharing wealth –-- these are still other steps to take.
Can we take a breath to notice -- that when the possibility of democracy in the Arab and Muslim worlds is born, it is not at the point of American bayonets and "Predators" jammed down the throats of Iraqis or Afghans, but from
the grass roots of their own societies?
Everyone has noticed that the Tunisian and Egyptian upheavals have stirred new energy throughout the
Arab world. I hope they are also stirring new thought, new energy, among many other peoples, including our own, to shake off the stupor brought upon us by our own Pharaohs –- Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Army, and the media
that tell us that their control of us is for our own good.
What is the sound of one hand clapping? It is the joyful sound of Dayenu in one hand & the quiet persevering work of Not Dayenu in the other -– hand over hand, climbing Freedom's ladder; step by step, walking Freedom's Journey.
Some might say: Better not to celebrate the fall of an enemy, even a Pharaoh. But especially when it
is accomplished by nonviolence so that not only his own first-born but all the first-born of his country are NOT slain, it might be instructive to reread the song Moshe & Miriam led on the other side of the Re[e]d Sea: Exodus chapter 15: “Horse and rider has God hurled into the Sea!!!”
The midrash teaches that God forbade the angels to celebrate, but only because Pharaoh and many of his soldiers soldiers died: "Are not these also the work of My hands?" All the more may even the angels dance when so few have died in winning transformation!
With blessings, especially joyful tonight at this moment of Dayenu, for shalom and salaam; for a true peace rooted in justice and in truth -- Arthur