Thursday, September 9, 2010

On Rosh Hashanah May You Be Inscribed In The Book Of Life! September 9th, 2010

This year we are far from any Jewish community. I had kept contact with Reb Dovid, a Yid I knew from Hanoi, the kind of Jew who really believes in changing the world and making it a better place. Go figure.

So Reb Dovid and I went to the market on Rosh Hashanah Eve to do our shopping for dinner. Invited were also HuĂ©, Reb Dovid’s Vietnamese girlfriend and Audrey who we met at the now famous Sasivad Guesthouse (the swimming pool has since been invaded by Germans, who stand in the water, beer glasses in hand…)

As luck, for is it all not just a matter of luck?, would have it, this new moon was also an important one for the Buddhists. The festival is called Hor Khao Pha Diin, and as I understand it, upon this day the Buddha opened up three worlds: heaven, hell and our world. One day someone will explain to me if the Buddha is just a really groovy man or a god or a demi-god. I am still having trouble understanding why people bow down and pray to a man who’s merit (great merit, I concede…) was to pass on to the Other Side while still in this life.

The day started with Marie-Do and me going off in all directions to buy enough table and chair space for our Rosh Hashanah guests. We visited a temple and then in the evening, just before we had our own apples and honey, we went to our local shul (The Ban Thapalansay Village Shteible) to join in the candlelight procession.

The entire neighbourhood was there. The girls were beautifully dressed and the boys all had Brillcream in their hair. At the temple entrance, flowers and candles were on sale. Who goes to their local shteible on Rosh Hashanah with money in their pockets? Not I! That didn’t matter very much because one of the monks came and offered us the ritual lulav.

Beautiful fresh flowers strung together with a candle and some incense sticks. When the candle burns down, it lights the incense stick. You take this in your hands, which are closed together in reverence, and circle the temple three times.

During the procession, a monk on a tower is smashing on an old drum. The beat of it sort of reminded me of all those old movies where the explorers knew something not good was cooking with the natives because of the hypnotic music coming in from a distance. At one point, the heroine falls into the hero’s strong arms and exclaims, “Oh, Brad! They are scaring me. Their music is driving me crazy! Please make them stop!!!”. The hero, Brad, knows that he can do nothing and that tomorrow he will probably be the thing not so good that is cooking with the natives. He looks off into the distance with white man’s impotence, his righteous rage against the savages contained only by his superior knowledge of his own limits.

But this is Laos. Smiles all around. And around. And around. We join in the procession and I pray for all good things for my family this year. Health, joy, prosperity. I pray for little Israel, and I pray for those who hate us, and I pray for little Laos and I pray for our little planet, enveloped as it is in madness and hatred.

This year I realized that I had something in common with everybody I could not stand. Every human being and I shared being alive at this very moment. Animosity or conflict of interest aside, we all share that bond.

I pray this year that this bond be strengthened

1 comment:

  1. When I see Maya's face, watching her candle, I can not imagine anymosity being in the world.

    Take care