Pirke Avot 4:22—Rabbi Yaakov used to say, one hour of repentance and good deeds in this world is better than the entire life of the World to Come. And one hour of bliss in the World to Come is better than the entire life of this world.
March 22, 2019
16 Adar II 5779
Shabbat Tzav Leviticus 6:1-8:36
(As an FYI—Shabbat Shalom will be somewhat sporadic through the end of April due to my schedule and Pesach. Beginning May 10, it will be fairly consistent until the end of June.)
I was in Chicago last Friday when I began to read about the mass murder at the two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. I stared at my phone just as I did on the Golan Heights learning about the mass murder at the synagogue in Pittsburgh. Among my first thoughts was to reach out to my friend Mahmood Soorma at the Islamic Society of Northeast Ohio (ISNEO) and express my grief and concern just as he did for the Jewish community last October. Over the years we have built a good relationship with ISNEO through dialogue, working together on two Habitat Houses, praying together at Thanksgiving, supporting each other as we stood against the Muslim ban and against the changes in our immigration policy and more. Last Friday the friendship turned to grief. Fifty Muslims were murdered as they prayed. Murdered in their holy spaces. Murdered with their friends and family by an evidently unrepentant avowed white nationalist who believes that if you are not white or Christian, then you have no right to live or love or pray. This is just sick.
This is also not the first time that someone who believes in this sick ideology has taken a gun and murdered innocent people, but let’s be fair—Muslims who are associated with ISIS have murdered dozens, if not hundreds of people, in Europe to promote and celebrate their manifesto as well. I have written about this before in different ways, but what human thought gives people the right to take a gun or a bomb or a car and murder others? Just because you don’t like the way others think or act or behave or pray or love, this doesn’t give you the right to end people’s lives. My heart aches for the families of those who died in New Zealand. Did you take the time to read some of their stories? A number of them came to that country to escape the war or turmoil facing their lives in Syria or Pakistan. They came for better lives and an opportunity. They were students or businessmen or parents or grandparents who went to their mosque or their Sabbath to offer their holy prayers just as the worshippers did in Pittsburgh. The first one shot was the person—and we all have this person in our synagogue or church or mosque—who stuck out his hand to greet the stranger. We are commanded to love the stranger! In this case that love was returned with a bullet and death.
Yes! I am angry. I am angry that in this country and around the world people have weapons of mass destruction like the AR-15. I am angry that in this country our response is “thoughts and prayers” instead of the way that New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern responded by quickly passing a law to get rid of these weapons and the bullets that cause such destruction to human life. I Googled mass shootings and there is a listing of every mass shooting for 2019, 2018, 2017…how many were killed or wounded. In 2019 there have been 50! That is 50 in 81 days. Seventy-seven dead and 150 injured. Is this how we want to live? Is this why we protect the revered Second Amendment? We should be ashamed, but instead we watch more guns being bought and we will see more innocent people slaughtered.
At what point will enough be enough?!
To my dear friends at ISNEO who mourn for their religious brothers and sisters, please know that our small community at Temple Israel aches and cries with you. We stand with you and love you. We hope that as we reach out our hands across whatever divides that there is more that unites us.
When you light your Shabbat candles this evening, light a very bright one for the Islamic community in Christchurch, NZ. They need our lights of love right now. Light the other candle for all those who have suffered and grieved for loved ones taken from them by those who have lost sight of their own humanity.
Rabbi Jon Adland