I don’t want to write this. I shouldn’t have to write this. But I have to, I need to write this, if not for me, then for the eleven Jews killed by a hateful coward at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
I read the news on Saturday afternoon a few hours after it happened. Tears started falling before I knew what was going on. I felt a hollow pain in my chest, like I’d been punched and nothingness was left behind. It was Shabbat, a holy day, a day of rest and fellowship and community, a day for worship. Hatred had turned it into a day of mourning. The morning prayers start with a kaddish, and they never knew they were saying it for themselves.
My thoughts turned to all my Jewish friends who would be in synagogue at the same time. It could’ve been them. It could’ve been me long ago. Make no mistake, this was every synagogue, this was every Jew. We’re all connected. We’re all one.
Anger rose in me like a hellish fire. I wanted to scream, to rage, to shout to the heavens, “God, look what they do to your children!!!” But of course, God already knew. He always knew. He’d known since the beginning of time. And I can’t understand why the Almighty lets these tragedies happen, but I know His lovingkindness is everlasting.
I’ve written this once already, and my words then are the same as now:
Baruch Dayan Emet – Blessed is the Judge of Truth. That is what we say when we hear that someone has died. G-d, only G-d, knows why this had to happen, why now, why them. We do not understand it. We tear our clothes in mourning, and cry to heaven. In reciting the prayer for the dead what we do is laud G-d, for He is the one who knows, and our consolation. It doesn’t make this any easier.
I want to rage, to scream, to shout horrible things at those responsible for this, to curse the young man who took these lives, to condemn his soul to damnation with every fiber of my being. But I won’t. That will only hurt me, my soul, and those of the deceased. It’s virulent energy and there’s enough of that in the world.
I had to wait to write this because the anger I felt was so strong, I was not in control of my emotions or my words. To give in to anger would’ve been to give in to hatred, and then I wouldn’t have been any better than that coward. God tells us to love each other as He loves us. I can’t say that I’m there, I can’t say that I have any love for this coward, but I can start by not giving in to hatred.
I wanted to talk about gun control, about the culture of violence and prejudice emanating from our government, about victim blaming and the astounding insensitivity of our charlatan in chief, about voting, about reclaiming our empathy for our fellow human beings regardless of race, color, national or ethnic origin, age, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity and expression, but I’ll be honest: I’m tired. And drained. And hurt. Please know we have to talk about all these in the wake of what happened in Pittsburgh, but for today let’s just mourn, let’s just gather ourselves. Unfortunately evil isn’t going away overnight, so we can fight tomorrow.
May those eleven souls receive an elevation up the Heavenly Father. And may those of us who remain here have the strength to do what we can to fight against injustice, oppose blind hatred, erase racism, uphold love.
Yitgadal v’yitkadash sh’mei raba – Glorified and sanctified be God’s great name.
Photo: An engraving of the Star of David on a grave marker in Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California, ©BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0.