“If right doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter how good the Constitution is. It doesn’t matter how brilliant the Framers were. … If right doesn’t matter, we’re lost. If the truth doesn’t matter, we’re lost.” — Rep. Adam Schiff, Jan. 23, 2020, impeachment trial comments
In Jewish tradition, Emet — Hebrew for “truth” — is one of the names of God. It is spelled alef, mem and tav — the first, middle and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet, for Truth/God is all encompassing.
Truth is also called the “Seal of God.” Alef, mem and tav are each, respectively, the last letter of the three words in Genesis that “seal” or end the story of Creation: “bara Elohim la’asot/God created to do.” (Gen. 1:7)
Jewish tradition holds from these words that God’s intention wasn’t to finalize Creation, but to invite us “to do,” to continue the work and bring Creation to completion. We are partners with God in this grand project of transforming our world into a Garden of Eden, and the key to carrying out our task is Truth.
Truth is “to do.” Truth is not a static proposition. It is a dynamic spiritual force embedded in Creation, the aim of which is to perfect the individual as well as the world. Truth is to be manifested, to be actualized through and as our lives.
Undermine, hollow out or eradicate truth and you will cause the world to devolve, wither and, ultimately, perish. To bring this warning home, our sages point to the alef, the first letter of the word emet — truth — the first letter of the alphabet, the Hebrew numeral “one.” Alef represents Oneness, the ineffable Presence of the One, of Love and Mercy. Remove the alef from emet —remove Love and Mercy from Truth — and you are left with a mem and a tav, which together spell the word met, meaning “dead.”
Mr. Schiff’s emotional plea for truth echoes many others tragically relegated to the dustbin of American history. We, Americans, are not very good with truth.
We have yet to tell the truth about the genocide of Native Americans, the enslavement of African Americans, segregation, mass-incarceration, perennial poverty. Nor are we telling the truth about the havoc our corporations and military-industrial complex have wreaked upon the world, upon our and other countries, on the eco-system. Hollowed out, dismembered truth only brings death, dismantling our democracy and killing us.
Could Mr. Schiff’s plea be a wake-up call? Could it bring about an era of truth and reconciliation? I do not know. But if we fail to heal this dark shadow in the American psyche, if we fail to tell the truth — the whole truth — then, for sure, “we’re lost.”
Read the full Jan. 29 - Feb. 4 issue.
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