Last weekend, the three top grossing films were “Dead Pool”, “Kung Fu Panda 2” and “Risen”. All these movies have a similar sub-theme: salvation. Honestly, salvation has never been part of my world view. I honor and respect that salvation is a crucial component of the belief systems of many of our Christian brothers and sisters. I know that it’s a part of my tradition as well. The opening words with which we begin Havdalah, the ceremony that ends Shabbat are: Hiney El y’shuati. Evtach v’lo efchad, “Behold God is my salvation. I will be assured and not afraid.” I love the melody that accompanies those words. It soars. The melody always makes me feel like I’m reaching another place.
But I don’t believe in salvation. I don’t believe that there is the possibility for rescue coming from some “other place.”That is what Mordechai tells Esther in the story of Purim, that if she doesn’t help the Jewish people at that moment, help will have to come from “Another place.” Scholars disagree over what the author of the Book of Esther meant by that statement put into Mordechai’s mouth. Was it an reference to God? An angel? A force? Fate?
I don’t believe in salvation…but I do believe in that melody that accompanies those words about salvation at the beginning of Havdalah. I believe in the “place” that melody takes me. Its a calm place filled with potential. Filled with the possibility for a world based on a commonality of purpose, mutual respect and understanding. It’s a place not of hope, but hope fulfilled a place built by human cooperation, empathy and honesty. For a moment, the melody makes me feel as though this “place” is possible, that we fallible but strong humans can actually do this. That’s the salvation I believe in.