Last Shabbat was a beautiful morning at our synagogue. We celebrated the joyous b’nei mitzvah of twins and a beautiful naming of a newborn baby girl. Little did we know that at the very same time we were praying, similar services at our sister Conservative synagogue, Tree of Life in Pittsburgh, were under attack by a savage and hateful gunman. The joy and light of Shabbat quickly turned to darkness for us all.
We mourn this massacre of innocents, both as Jews and as Americans. As Jews, we know that when one of us hurts, we all hurt. When one of us is killed, we all feel deeply bereaved for we are all one extended family, the children of Father Abraham and Mother Sarah whose story we were reading on that bloody Shabbat. As Americans, we are saddened and outraged that such a monstrous and murderous act of anti-Semitism can occur in this blessed land of freedom that we love with all our hearts.
We find ourselves just days away from the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, when synagogues throughout Germany were under attack. Despite our constant cries of “Never Again!” it seems that the lessons of history remain unlearned by so many, even in this enlightened country, whose noble democratic principles of liberty and justice for all continue to serve as a guiding light for the world.
In the days to come, we must engage in a serious discussion in our nation. We must find some way to go forward in a spirit that affirms the good light that is in the heart of most Americans. We must address the vitriolic public discourse, the expressions of hate that pop up so prolifically on all forms of social media. And, most importantly, we must all serve as mirrors that reflect the light of goodness, the light of tolerance, the light of love onto every human being.
Lady Liberty’s torch is now dimmer. The spirit of the Jewish poetess whose words grace her pedestal sheds tears from heaven. Yet, we are a people of hope, and God is the one who helps us distinguish the light from the darkness — the one who will empower us to brighten liberty’s torch once again.
Whenever Shabbat ends, we Jews hold our loved ones in a tight embrace as we sing of Elijah the Prophet, who will one day announce the beginning of a new era marked by complete peace, total serenity, and universal love. May we work to make that wonderful day arrive soon … even as we mourn, even as we cry, and even as we seek to comfort each other’s pain.
Rabbi Geoffrey A. Spector
Temple Beth Shalom, Livingston