Tuesday, April 15, 2008

An Unlit Candle - Tibet, Passover, and the struggle toward the Light

Politics and religion. Now that should get an "Oy!" A few weeks ago I posted a reference to an article in the Jerusalem Post titled "Are Tibetans the New Jews?" Both groups had an autonomous religious state and highly religious culture which was absorbed into a larger empire. The Romans destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem, and the Chinese destroyed thousands of ancient monasteries throughout Tibet. Many Jews left their occupied homeland before and during a forcible expulsion. Many Tibetans have also fled their homeland and have ended up all over the world. Jews were concerned with how to maintain their religious, cultural, and ethnic identity. Many Tibetans are now pondering those same concerns. This comparison is not intended to be a dig at the Chinese or the descendants of the Romans, nor is it ignorant of the plight of other groups, for example, the many Palestinians who are caught in a conflict they neither want nor desire. Yet it does suggest on some level a sense of shared suffering. And some have now suggested that this be recognized with a sign of solidarity - An Unlit Candle at the Seder Table...

We call on all Jews to include an unlit candle on their Seder Tables this year. The candle symbolizes both the Olympic torch, whose light has been dimmed, and the unmet hopes of a people still living without freedom.

In the Jewish tradition, light symbolizes freedom, hope, and renewal. On Shabbat, Chanukah, and on holidays including Passover, we light candles to shed light into our hearts, thank God for the blessings we enjoy, and commit ourselves to our religion’s ideals of justice and freedom for all.

But for three million Tibetans living under military rule, the light has been extinguished. Tibetans may not freely practice their religion, display their flag, or honor their leader, the Dalai Lama. Doing so puts them at risk of jail, torture, or worse.

The point is not just to have another symbol on your table. Rather, as with the rest of the Seder, the point is to stimulate discussion and action. When your loved ones ask about the unlit candle on the Seder table, talk with them about the Tibetans’ struggle for freedom.

Thanks to Rachel of Velveteen Rabbi for sharing this and to Danny Fisher and all the others who are also passing it on.

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