It’s been hard not to think about the shootings at the Tops Friendly Markets in Buffalo. Ten innocent lives lost, more injured, countless lives, including ours, forever changed. Our collective memories recall names like Oklahoma City, Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, Tel Aviv, drops in the bucket of an ever growing list. . .
Below is the Shabbat encouragement I sent out in November 2018 after the Tree of Life synagogue shootings. Although the place is different and has its nuances, fear and hate of the other is the same motive for the Buffalo shootings. Such hatred finds multiple groups to hate, applies differing rationale, and is non-discriminating as to the individual targets, but is fueled by the same driving evil of hate, the end product of bigotry. Perhaps what has worsened since the writing in 2018 is the additional specter of increased social media influences and societal changes leading to more extremism. All the more reason to be reminded of the bigger picture as we dig deeper, as we process . . .
(From November 1, 2018)
What more can be said about the tragic shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh? All the truisms are there. These peoples’ and our lives are forever changed. Words of division must end. Greater vigilance is needed. Life is unpredictable and can change on a dime. Random acts of violence happen. Anti Semitism is worsening. We don’t live in HaOlam HaBa. We must live each day to the fullest. We are reminded of our need for HaShem. We can’t live in fear.
It is events such as these that remind me that spiritual warfare is real. To me this is another truism. There is no doubt HaShem wins the battle. And yet our lives seem to be the battlefield. The struggle is between good and evil and good will prevail. The timing may just not be in our understanding, or in our lifetimes.
What troubles me in the accounts of that day, in addition to so many things, is an interview with a long-time congregant who now says he does not know if he can go back to his shul to pray. His religious sanctuary is no longer a sanctuary. Hate crimes are aptly named. Hate is evil and it struck hard last Shabbat morning at that place. Hate allows in chaos, and fear, all a point for the dark side which can snowball into more hate and fear unless we work hard to bring light back into the darkness that befell those loved ones on that day. For this reason it is all the more important to fight the natural tendency he feels. I pray that as time passes this Tree of Life congregant will focus on those words, Tree of Life, and someday be able to return. The rest of us are charged with the task to speak up against anti Semitism and all hate crimes, to reach out in love to the victims, to reassure others who are shaken, to reclaim all synagogues as God’s home, to work toward feeling safe there once again, to reclaim Tree of Life and all places of worship as places of shalom.
Because this is a fractured world, and because we are flawed as human beings, there are chinks in our armor to fight off evil. For those of us who live with God as the center of our lives, it helps to wake up each morning and remind ourselves to put on our armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) We need it! Not that we won’t have our struggles, but it helps to keep them in perspective knowing we’re not fighting this battle alone, by any means! Conversely, if we live in fear, the evil one must love it, as we shrink away, lose our confidence, our sense of well being, our strength in HaShem. Just as stress can weaken our immune system, fear weakens our spiritual immune system. Have you ever noticed that when we feel fearful it’s amazing how thinking about our Abba at that moment can break fear’s grip instantly, for where there is light there cannot be darkness. HaShem’s presence is the healing elixir of life.
Random acts of violence just happen and there is no way to prevent or avoid them. The Pittsburgh tragedy is an example, and no security system is foolproof. These acts will continue for this is the world in which we live. All the more reason to work harder to strengthen our relationship with God and bring more love into this world in any way possible. More tikkun olam, more repairing of fractured relationships, more vigilance and outreach to the marginalized who can someday become mass murderers. More love, more love.
Mass shootings are obviously horrific. Yet evil can gain a foothold in each of us stealthily in small ways which cumulatively changes our lives, our relationships, our communities, our world. As we make wrong choices we invite darkness into our beings which affects our actions, and brings hurtful and harmful ripple effects to those with whom we interact, and with whom they interact, and so it goes. Mindless acts of judging our neighbors can become communities of bigotry. Individual lives of narrow minded thinking can become countries of racism.
Pray for our lost brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh. Pray for more love in this world. Just pray.