Where Have All The Flowers Gone

“Where have all the flowers gone.” For a host of reasons, I hate loving this song: especially at this time of year. I look forward to loving this song, when it will no longer speak to me. This song is about the cycle of life and death. Our life cycles are a normal part of living, but this song speaks about anything but a normal life cycle. The moment we come into being, we know that our time on earth is finite. This song reminds us that this already finite time keeps being cut short as hopes are dashed, as violence perpetuates … as hopes are dashed. The flowers get picked by young girls who marry young men. The young men go off to war to die, be buried and replenish the soil that promotes flowers.

We have just experienced the Jewish New Year. We are renewing our calendar cycle, and I find myself unable to look at each new year and not hear the song playing over and over in my head. Just a short period into this new year, we have completed a monumental march for justice with the NAACP. We walked nearly 1000 miles to call attention to the violence we still have to endure in this world. Whether it is the police officer shot or having shot, the wars across the world, or the reality that in the secular year of 2015, Americans have witnessed 295 mass shootings (4 or more people injured or killed) in 280 days; 45 of those have happened in our schools. Dating back to 2004, over 400,000 people have died by firearms on American soil. This horrifying statistic shows that we have lost more people to gun violence in this country than we lost to all of the Vietnam War. Our horrific reality is that it is safer to send our children into military war than to school or the store. These acts of violence do not even touch the injuries/deaths caused by our abuse of nature or power, or our neglect of folks around us who perish in our lack of concern.

This week we read about the creation of the world. We just celebrated it weeks ago, and now we are studying all of the possible intentions behind the act of creation. After each act, God felt that what God had done was good. The only act over which God equivocates is the creation of humanity. Still, though, God gives us dominion over the earth and entrusts us with stewardship over everything that God created. It is time for a check in with truth. Our biography is not our destiny, and tomorrow, we have the power to change the entire world. Enough people die naturally, as we are supposed to die, to replenish the fields of flowers for our young girls to pick. I pray that the young men who grow to love and appreciate these young girls as they mature, live long enough to celebrate their love … in safety and in peace.


Marc Kline is the rabbi of Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls, NJ.