New Orleans and Jerusalem: Sacred Energy, Sacred Space, and the Scattering of the Sparks. A D’var Torah on Parshat Re’eh
11 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2021
Date Written: August 2, 2021
One of the great principles of Deuteronomy, as is dramatically evident in the injunctions contained in the section called Parshat Re’eh, is the centralization of worship in a city that God will choose, which later turns out to be Jerusalem. The explicit reason for this concentration of ritual life was to banish idolatry. But another reason might have been to inspire an urban faith, a faith centered on a place of concentrated energy, both good and bad, with complex and even explosive spiritual consequences.
This D’var Torah was first delivered in the wake of the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. It is a tribute to cities – New Orleans, Jerusalem, and many others. But it also tries to give a clear-eyed account of their potential for decay and disaster. The essay ultimately suggests the need for a theology of the city that also encompasses the non-city.
A coda to the original D’Var Torah very briefly discusses the profound facture between cities and non-cities during our current polarized age and especially during the current COVID pandemic.
Keywords: Deuteronomy, Jerusalem, Theology of the City, Coronavirus pandemic
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