We enter this Shabbat on an all too familiar somber note, reeling from a period of violence and death around the world and closer to home. In recent weeks, we have written to you with broken hearts about attacks in Orlando and the West Bank. This week, we mourn hundreds of people in Bangladesh, Turkey, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Iraq who died as a result of brutal terrorist attacks in the final days of Ramadan. In the United States, we struggle to come to terms with the deaths of black men in Baton Rouge and the Twin Cities who lost their lives as a result of actions by law enforcement officials. And this morning we woke up to the news that police officers in Dallas, who were protecting peaceful protestors, came under sniper attack, resulting in five deaths and seven injured officers. Then today, an officer in Ballwin, Missouri, was shot during a traffic stop.
As we try to understand the seething anger that fills many to the point of committing such actions, we remember that each of us, as Deuteronomy 30:19 teaches, faces the choice between blessing and curse, life and death. We can choose to lift up voices and actions that work to expand goodness and peace in the world. We can choose life and blessing and light. We can work to promote values of love and communication and relationship. We have learned over and over again throughout history that the response to violence cannot be violence, but must be peace. The opposite of pain is not pleasure, it is relationship and meaning and hope. So too, must we mourn and pray and raise up what is good. This is the wisdom of our mourner’s kaddish—that we sanctify God’s presence even in the midst of pain and loss. And, after Shabbat, we do what we can to heal our broken world.
Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D.
Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and
Jewish Reconstructionist Communities