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Celebrating Life in a Post Party World March 2020

This piece was written just after the Australian bushfires at the end of February 2020, and before the Covid-19 world crisis. It was to be published in the Easter Edition of St Peter's Eastern Hill Apostrophe which has now been held over.

‘Communities are an essential part of our collective well being. They bridge the gap between family and society. They are large enough to extend our sympathies but small enough to be intelligible. They are the human face of the common good, which would otherwise remain as an abstraction.’ Celebrating Life (Jonathan Sacks: p 143).

Have you heard the enigma about the fly and the fly-bottle? The new edition of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ work: Celebrating Life offers many stories and personal insights into the human condition that had me pause, ponder, re-frame my thinking this summer passed. A fly is trapped and caught in a bottle. She buzzes loudly, vibrates her wings frantically, hurtling her tiny body from side to side inside the glass. But she can’t get out. Why? What is she to do?

We’ll leave her there for a moment, with Wittgenstein for company who first thought up her plight. Leave her, though hopefully not so long that she passes out; but sometimes such despair precedes a new beginning. Hers is, after all, a human predicament.

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem houses a small parchment dating from the First Temple, over 2 500 years ago. It is the oldest surviving fragment of a biblical text and its 15 Hebrew words is the blessing from the Book of Numbers, in English - ‘May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace.’ Imagine, someone from the time of King Solomon’s Temple actually held this parchment and prayed these words.

But what does it mean to have God shine upon you? To have God’s face turn to you and give you peace?