During our CDC Pastor Peer meeting last week our Conference Minister Doug Luginbill led a meditation on Exodus 34 which includes the words “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious…keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation…but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children to the third and fourth generation.” There are all kinds of theological quagmires with this statement, some of which are addressed later in the Bible, but the question Doug posed was what it might look like to be the fifth generation. In other words, if harm and trauma can be transmitted to the third and fourth generation, how might we be intentional about stopping or mitigating its effects for future generations.
Fifth generation thinking is similar to the kind of approach BREAD takes. Tuesday evening was the annual Nehemiah Action which many of you attended – virtually or in person in your car. The two major issues of police reform and affordable housing are an attempt to address generational cycles (now well past the third or fourth generation).
A fifth generation lens is also vital when we look at the explosive violence in Israel and Palestinian territories. While images show present day demonstrators and destruction, there are generational injustices underlying the violence – with deep trauma all around. However far this extends into the past, we can wonder what steps might be taken to reach the fifth generation when these cycles of violence and abuses of power end.
Most of my time in that part of the world has been spent with Palestinians, learning the crippling effects of occupation and cruel policies against them. But I have a friend who recently moved to Israel who many of you may know. For several decades Cantor Jack Chomsky served Congregation Tifereth Israel on Broad St. He was a leader in BREAD and active in the Columbus justice community. After retiring last year he now lives with family in Tel Aviv. I had an email exchange with him this morning to check in on him. With his permission, I share some of his words with you.
We’re doing fine.
Actually had a siren at 2:30 p.m. — went to our safe room, heard a couple of explosions (was it 2? was it 3? amazing how quickly you can’t remember accurately) which were probably Iron Dome interceptions.
I’m in a very good place.
I believe that this series of events could actually lead to better things. . . but there are a lot of odds to beat on that.
1) Need to get a new unity government without Netanyahu
2) Need to find right leaders on both — or all — sides.
3) Need a calm kind of quiet US to help nudge people toward each other without taking over.
I’m heartened by seeing Palestinians demonstrating for justice in Sheikh Jarrah.
I wish I could stand with them.
I know that some Israelis have in the past.
I’m not sure if that’s possible at the moment.
And I’m disheartened by violence from both sides.
There are SO MANY programs that have brought Jews and Arabs together in different ways — and one of these days that is going to yield a harvest of people who look at each other and see people they know and can build with. Hasn’t happened yet. It won’t come from the existing organizations. But I am hoping that it will bear fruit.
We join Cantor Chomsky, our fellow BREAD congregations, and others near and far in praying and acting our way, with God’s help, toward the fifth generation.