For Jews it is currently the High Holy Days or High Holidays, a ten day period that stretches from Rosh Shoshanna (which was on September 24) through Yom Kippur (which this year is October 3.) On Rosh Shoshanna, God opens the Books of Life for each person and reviews their conduct over the past year before deciding what will happen to them in the upcoming year- a sort of Divine Audit, if you will. As it happens, October 3 will also be of major religious significance to Muslims this year as it is the date for the Eid al-Adha, a major Muslim holiday that commemorates Abraham offering his first-born son as a sacrifice to God as proof of his faith in Him. This means it’s currently a major time for deep introspection. How have you been this year? Because now is the time to make amends and address those issues you’ve been putting on the backburner.
Sadly, this kind of deep inspection can be hard for readers of this blog since their training in the adversarial process tends to make lawyers view introspection as a time of trying themselves without mercy. Is there a way though for lawyers to use their skill at legal advocacy to do this type of reflection? There is a very famous answer to this question provided in the character of Job, the titular character from the Book of Job.
Most people know the barebones of Job’s story. A highly faithful and materially prosperous judge among the Jews in his time, Job is made physically ill and suffers the loss of both his family and all his possessions after the Adversary, a high-ranking angel, is given permission by God to see whether Job would remain faithful to God if his material blessings were taken away. Literally out on the street, Job sits for many days with 3 friends (generally called the Comforters) before finally asking why this happened to him. His resulting conversations with the Comforters and ultimately with God make up the rest of the book, with Job’s prosperity being returned to him at the very end after his faith is shown.
Personally, I don’t know what to say when it comes to Job. It’s a huge book with complex characters that still inspires discussion; what little bit of it most interests me would probably lead me to writing a short sermon (although, full disclosure, I have written on that bit for a paper at my undergrad.) So instead of boring you to death with my own weak thoughts, I’d thought I’d instead share 3 resources that those of you reading this might find useful to begin your own contemplations on this famous legal figure and book:
1) Robert Southerland’s Putting God on Trial: The Biblical Book of Job , which you can read or order “here.” Southerland’s book remains one of the strongest readings of the Book of Job as a legal trial, which is unsurprising as Southerland is himself an accomplished Canadian criminal defense lawyer.
2) J.B., the Pulitzer Prize winning play by American poet and Harvard Law graduate Archibald MacLeish. A modern retelling of the Book of Job, the play offers a unique take on looking at the book. You can find a copy online at Scribd “here.”
3) And finally, for those of you who prefer audio over text, I just found out that a sermon on both Job and J.B. was given this past Sunday by the Reverend Dr. Fred Muir of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis. You can download/stream it from “here.”
Hope you find these useful, and for those of you observing any of the holidays mentioned above, Happy Holidays!