The Dawning of the Age of Aquarius
by Jhos Singer
I was walking to the bus stop this morning and noticed a flyer tacked on a telephone pole proclaiming: “The Age of Pisces is Ending, The Age of Aquarius is Beginning!!” Having been an impressionable 10-year old in 1969, seeing that flyer brought to mind strains of James Rado, Gerome Ragni and Galt McDermott’s seminal classic from Hair: “Flesh Failures/Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” (the latter made famous by the 5th Dimension). Once that reverie passed, I was able to read the text of the flyer, which declared that the earth is leaving an epoch of war and conflict, contention and fear and moving into an era of compassion and confidence, care and community. Amazingly this lines up perfectly with this week’s Torah portion, Beha’alotecha.
Among the many innovations of early Judaic revelation detailed in this week’s Torah, there exists the radical idea that leadership is bestowed by a community upon those whom they are positioning as authorities, proxies, and public servants. Through smikhah — literally leaning their hands on the Levites— they transfer their agency to the ordainees, rendering them to be priests amongst them. (Bamidbar 8:9-14) There is no indication that this is earned or merited. There are no LSATs, MCATs or GREs, no gold medals or awards. There is a family lineage that presages the appointment to serve, but what really confers the shift from civilian to spiritual office is the will of the people and the willingness of the priest.
For the Israelites, this signals a total paradigm shift. In Egypt, the Hebrews had no volition, no power, no voice. They lived within a culture that barely recognized their humanity, let alone any will or vision. And yet, as that system of slavery died, rising in its place a was new generation born into freedom. From constriction to expansion, from subjugation to autonomy, from oppression to liberation—who could have imagined it?
Clearly these issues are hardly new, and they are still relevant today. Julie says that there is a musical theater moment for every occasion, and spotting that flyer reminded me that I grew up with the prophetic lyrics from Hair, which seem only too relevant today. Could it be that we are on the verge of leaving Egypt again?
We starve, look at one another, short of breath
Walking proudly in our winter coats
Wearing smells from laboratories
Facing a dying nation of moving paper fantasy
Listening for the new told lies
With supreme visions of lonely tunes
With an eye towards redemption?
Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind’s true liberation
May it be that we allow ourselves a taste of the Age of Aquarius this Shabbes. May we welcome its dawn and accept its vision of healthy community and humble authority—a time when, rather than coveting power, we share it. Let the sunshine in!