Rebellion is often a single dissatisfaction away. Frustration and agitation are precursors to political and societal upheaval. The act of rebellion requires a disappointment that triggers grief into action. In a world of challenges and conflicts, rebellion is at the door. The question is whether or not rebellion will be holy as it is conceived and as it is waged.
In the Torah, Korach and his followers give us an example of rebellion. Theirs was not a righteous operation. Their failing was to focus on their own disappointment but not on the greater good to be garnered by disobedience. Their uprising was short lived as the earth swallowed them up.
I am writing 50 years after the Stonewall riots. That was a rebellion by gay and trans folk against undeserved and brutal police harassment. Protecting the dignity of human beings is always a holy endeavor. Taking to the streets and raising voices in defiance is holy too.
While individual rights still require our advocacy, 50 years ago few understood the dire threat of climate change. Another wave of protests is now being waged to save our planet. At the forefront in England is a group called the Extinction Rebellion. If international climate agreements and local governments can’t curtail the burning of our planet’s life force, then rebellion is holy and necessary.
Rebellion is not always bad and is not always massive in scale. Sometimes change can happen because of a few dedicated people. Rebellion is more than opposition to a policy or law. Rather, the focus of rebellion is upending a system that is despoiling our society or planet.
Given the grave concern most of us share for civil rights, immigrants denied safe passage, unabated gun violence and the rising seas of climate change, I wonder why so few of us take to the streets in rebellion. Is it because we have benefitted from the courage of small groups who have previously brought about great change? Or haven’t we sufficient personal dissatisfaction to forego Netflix and get out into the streets?
I don’t pretend to speak for anyone but myself. I am frustrated and I am agitated but I am not a leader of rebellion, yet. Perhaps I am too comfortable and too far from the tipping point of dissatisfaction that would propel me into action.
This I know. On the High Holidays, I’ll have to atone for the rebellion I did not wage. The final stage of full atonement is to return to the situation in which the sinful behavior occurred and act more appropriately. Which means next year, should be a year in which I join the rebellion. In this case, unless we act resolutely, the earth will swallow us up for our failure to be good advocates.
R’ Evan J. Krame.