One of our worst nightmares has come true. I think every rabbi I know has had a nightmare that someone might show up with a gun to the synagogue on a Shabbat or holiday morning. We have feared someone showing up to perpetrate evil for the sake of hate. We scorn the idea of having a military-like presence outside our doors like may synagogues in Europe. It goes against our image of a safe and secure United States. Like so many other churches and mosques, we want to throw our doors open to the public, to all who wish to come and learn and pray with us. But in the backs of our minds, we feared that something like the massacre that took place in Pittsburgh could happen in our own synagogues. We tell ourselves that we live in country where, as George Washington once wrote to the Jewish community, “ the Government of the United States gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.” We like to think we are free to practice Judaism openly and freely, without fear of prejudice or harm. But we have always known that our safety hangs on our own ability to protect ourselves.
Our hearts go out to the families of the victims murdered in cold blood. Our prayers go out to the community scarred irreparably. We mourn for them. We cry for those who have been hurt physically and emotionally and pray for their speedy recovery.
We ask ourselves what we can do in the wake of such tragedies. Sadly, because our Jewish community has experienced such heinous crimes against our people almost from the first tribe of Abraham and Sarah, we know what to do. We have survived through persecution, expulsion, pogroms, and mass murder because we know what to do. The Jewish people have survived three thousand years, long after so many other religions and civilizations have failed, because we know what to do.
We grieve and mourn, but just for a fixed period of time. We find strength in community. We turn to the Psalms and traditional liturgy for hope and guidance. We stand by, and for each other at our time of need. Then we rise and return to our regular lives. We find comfort in the normalcy of routine. We show ourselves and the world that we will not be intimidated, we will not be afraid. We stand tall and proud. We persevere! We choose life!
This week’s Torah portion opens with the story of the death of Sarah. It goes into detail about the events surrounding her death, her years on earth and the purchase of her resting place. It describes her very burial in the Cave of the Machpelah. How odd it is then that the parsha is referred to as Chayei Sarah, the life of Sarah and not Motat Sarah, the death of Sarah. It is because in Judaism, we cherish life. We choose life.
This Shabbat we are participating in the national #ShowUpForShabbat campaign. It is campaign started by the American Jewish Committee. You can find out more information about it here: www.ajc.org. What better way to show how strong we are than by coming to the very place those who hate us think they can target with fear?
Join us for Friday night services at 7:30 PM or Shabbat morning at 9:00 AM. Please invite your friends, family, neighbors and colleagues to join you.
Rabbi Bradley Tecktiel has been Midbar Kodesh Temple's spiritual leader since August 2008. Rabbi Tecktiel was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in May of 1996. He holds two Bachelor of Arts degrees, one from List College and one from Columbia University. He also holds a Masters of Arts from the Jewish Theological Seminary.
You can follow him on Twitter @RabbiMKT.