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    On holy ground

    God said to Moses, “Remove your shoes, for the place where you stand is holy ground” (Exodus 3:50).

    The place where we stand on Rosh HaShanah is also holy ground. We do not have to remove our shoes (though we do on Yom Kippur), but what we have to put aside are the concerns that fill our minds throughout the rest of the year.

    These concerns which have no place on Rosh HaShanah are jealousy, rivalry, egotism and selfishness, attitudes which put down other people and leave no room for them, especially if their race, religion, politics and possessions are different from mine.

    I had a friend who used to say that in God’s eyes we were all the same because “your grandmother and mine dried their washing under the same sun”.

    On holy ground there is tolerance. But somehow there is also intolerance; Professor Alexander Altmann said, “There are both tolerance and intolerance in the Jewish tradition”.

    The tolerance is not that of a polytheistic society when one man’s god is as good as another’s. It is the kind of tolerance which is “a radical innovation in the history of religion”, a tolerance which gives everyone a right, a dignity, an identity, all living their lives under the same sun.

    The intolerance is of ideas of superiority that say, “I have every right to be myself… but if you want the same right for yourself, I have the right to kill you so that you do not pollute the earth”.

    On the holy ground of Rosh HaShanah the Jew says, “Surely we can smile at each other and enjoy the same sun.”

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