04/22/2007 10:38 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Nationwide Day of Repentance for/from Violence?

Dear friends,

In the wake of Virginia Tech, death-a-day murder rates in our major cities, and the Iraq war, America needs a National Day of Turning ("tshuvah, repentance") away from our addiction to violence and its tools.

For the past few years, The Shalom Center has worked with the Tent of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah and with a number of diverse religious and "secular-spiritual" organizations and communities to encourage shared observances of the Sacred Season of Sacred Seasons.

This year the cluster of the 9/11 anniversary, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot, Ramadan, Worldwide Communion Sunday, and the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi falls in the period from September 11 to October 12. Perhaps this time of year is the best in which to fashion a shared Day of Turning.

During the past week, I have of course wrestled with the Virginia Tech massacre. As I was invited to take part in a number of radio interviews about it (one with Rev. Jim Forbes, whose nephew is a student at Va. Tech) , I began seeing it in the context of a more systemic disease: American addiction to violence, expressed also through the Iraq war, the use of torture by the US government as an act of public policy, and the gunshot murders of one person a day on the streets of my city of Philadelphia (and numbers like that in other major cities).

This terrible event at Virginia Tech was like losing an eye from some terrible illness. But my own diagnosis is that we lost the eye because the WHOLE American body is sick, and we are already losing other limbs as well to the systemic illness of addiction to violence.

So it is my own assessment that only by addressing the whole disease can we save ourselves. It is wise for us to mourn our lost eye, but if we do ONLY that instead of addressing the disease as a whole, we are far more likely to lose legs, arms, genitals, hearts, and souls, as well. (Indeed, we already are.)

We need to be addressing as skilled spiritual therapists and social activists the plague of violence in our country.

We could begin imagining, planning, how to seed into the American universe a day of widespread repentance for our easy recourse --- I would say, addiction -- to lethal violence. Guns, bombs, ecocide.

Perhaps we could choose one day in the forthcoming Ramadan/ Tishrei/ Assisi etc time as a good time for such a nation-wide self-assessment, a review of what is corrupting our souls and a profound ritual of self-transformation.

Such a day could include some aspect of fasting, prayer and meditation, relearning of our visceral reactions to fear, sorrow, ambition -- and an outpouring of firm and gentle action toward ending the war and putting sensible controls on hand guns and assault weapons.

The Shalom Center has already begun to explore this with some major leaders in several religious communities, and the proposal has won interest for further discussion.

I welcome your thoughts about what it would mean to put our heads and hearts together to sow the seeds of such a day.

I invite anyone who is prepared to invest serious time in working on this, to write me NOT at this return address but at --

Shalom, salaam, peace -- Arthur

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, co-author, The Tent of Abraham; director, The Shalom Center, which voices a new prophetic agenda in Jewish, multireligious, and American life. To receive the weekly on-line Shalom Report, click on --