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Weekly Message

May 3, 2019
28 Nisan 5779

Parashat Achrei Mot
Leviticus 16:1 - 18:30
13th day of the Omer

Let us join together this Friday night as we recall the Shoah and the terrible shooting last Shabbat morning. 
We are always stronger together, and we invite you to join us in prayer and remembrance.

Dear Friends,

Last Shabbat morning, two young people soon to be married chanted a section of Song of Songs together. They were pelted with candy as we danced and sang Mazel Tov to them. It was an affirmation, hope for the future incarnate, a moment of joy, unsullied.

That was how the day began. It is not how the day ended. There was another shooting in a house of worship. Once more, it was a Jewish house of worship. Our sense of security is shaken as our hearts are torn asunder once more. How much more breaking can we withstand?

Sadly, history tells us — a great deal more. There will be always be those who choose to attack those who are other in one way or another. Next week’s Torah portion reminds us not to put a stumbling block before the blind and to treat one another with respect. While addressing a European conference, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said that anti-Semitism is a symptom of brokenness – it is not the disease itself. The disease is far more serious, a society where mutual respect is nowhere to be found. Rabbi Sacks said: “Antisemitism is not about Jews, it is about anti-Semites. It is about people who cannot accept responsibility for their own failures and instead have to blame someone else.”

This quote sounds familiar, doesn’t it? We are living in a moment where we are busy placing one another in categories of all sorts, forgetting almost purposefully to see that which we have in common and brings us together. Hitler was really good at identifying differences and demonizing them, taking away their humanity. If we look closely today we see that same behavior exhibited. It is frightening, and it is not a joke, because it empowers people with guns to enter houses of worship or college campuses, or even elementary schools.

We can call it madness and simply put it in a silo and hope for the best. But that simply isn’t good enough. There will always be broken people in the world, people influenced by the words and deeds of others to act in unspeakable ways. What do we do? Do we barricade ourselves? Do we stop looking for the best in those around us and in ourselves? I certainly hope not. I pray not.

My cousin’s father is in his early 90’s. He is a survivor. He got out of Eastern Europe and made his way halfway around the world, spending much of the war in India. When he tells the story of his life, he does not speak about what was lost, but rather the people he met along the way — people who were willing to help at the risk of their own lives, people who enabled his and his parents’ survival.

The way he tells his story is striking, but I have known others like him. They are the ones who tell their stories in a way that gives us hope, making us believe that there are still good people in the world.

How do we make sure that this is true? One thing this week’s Torah portion teaches us is the way each of us lives our lives with the best that is within us pushes chaos and destruction away. Chaos is always outside the door. Sometimes it gains a foothold. It is our task to keep it at bay, to live each day grateful for the gift of live and striving to bring our best selves forward. Then, we are once more filled with the hope and sense of possibility that these two lovely young people had as they read Song of Songs together.

Shabbat Shalom,

     

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn 

Tue, July 16 2019 13 Tammuz 5779