The L’Chaim Center family joins the Jewish community worldwide in sharing our shock, horror, grief and mourning over the unspeakable events that took place in Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh on Shabbat. Eleven lives were taken, including two brothers and a husband and wife, in the deadliest attack on Jews in US history. Our hearts are broken and our prayers are with the families and loved ones who will have to face the darkness of evil for the rest of their lives. We are so grateful to the law enforcement officers who rushed to our defense, several of whom were wounded.
And, of course, when an incident like this occurs, among the many questions that we ask is: How are we supposed to respond? As Jews, how are we meant to react to a gunman brutally murdering innocent people at a Bris Milah ceremony on the Holy Shabbat as the hate-filled words, “All Jews must die,” spew from his mouth?
I sat with a group of men outside of Yad Vashem two weeks ago after a gut-wrenching tour of the museum in Jerusalem that documents the systematic genocide of our people. Anger, fury and rage were the words they chose when I asked them to describe what they were feeling.
In an attempt to redirect their rage towards a more productive end, I shared with them the following analogy that I believe to be quite appropriate to mention now:
Two people walk into a jewelry store to purchase a diamond ring. Each one puts $10,000 on the counter. One receives a spectacular stone in exchange and the other is told to leave with nothing in return. They are each out $10,000. But one man is thrilled with his deal and the other is furious. They each paid the hefty sum, but one man walked out with something magnificent and valuable and he has no remorse. The second man also paid the price but received nothing in return and he is filled with anger.
Similarly, there is a price to pay for being Jewish. It’s called anti-Semitism. As long as there is evil and darkness in this world, that evil will turn its focus towards the Jewish people – the nation singled out to be a Light Unto the Nations (Isaiah 49:6) and to bring the light of morality into the world.
We don’t have a choice, as Jews, whether we are willing to pay the price or not. It is forced upon us. What we do have the ability to choose, however, is how many of the “diamonds” of Judaism we are going to take in exchange.
And so I said to these men standing outside of Yad Vashem, and I reiterate now in response to this horrific attack, the choice that faces us now is: how much will we get out of being Jewish?
I encourage each of us to choose one new “diamond” from the endless sack of gems that exists in Jewish life and to bring it into your life. One friend told me last night that he has decided to start wearing a kippah outside the house to show his pride in being Jewish. For another, it may be committing to have a family Shabbat dinner once a month on Friday night, or volunteering to help our Jewish brothers and sisters in need. Another may decide to dedicate an hour a week to studying Jewish wisdom.
The way Jews always respond to darkness is by bringing more light. Please think of one way that you can get more out of your Judaism in response to this evil act of anti-Semitism and dedicate this new commitment to the memories of those who lost their lives for no reason other than the fact they were openly celebrating their Judaism.
May the Omnipresent One comfort the mourners among all the mourners of Israel and Zion.
Posted on: Sunday, October 28th, 2018
Author: Rabbi David
About: For more and more students in the Chicago area, Rabbi David is like a personal tour guide into the world of Jewish thought. He is passionate about elucidating timeless Jewish texts to the contemporary mind and leading each student on his or her own personal spiritual journey. His inspiring and insightful teaching style, coupled with his sense of humor and warm approach, has attracted hundreds of students since he began teaching on the North Shore 12 years ago. Rabbi David and Ali have five children, and currently reside in West Rogers Park in Chicago.