Shabbat in a Challenging Week

My Friends:

Probably like you, my heart ached this week when I heard that senseless violence had struck innocent people at prayer.  I kept thinking that a tallit often feels to me like a uniform, that helps keep me in focus, that protects me from wandering attention.  The Torah tells us that the fringes protect us from wandering after false gods.  But the tallit offers no protection from violent hatred, from the hands and hearts of those who are so lost to destruction and hatred.

Even as this murder is abhorrent, so, too is the reflex to use our pain for political purposes.  As four families lower themselves into shiva posture in mourning, we must lower our voices, as well, not to imagine that this is about what they do to us, and how we have to get back at them.  On both sides, there are those who would exploit the victims’ blood for political ends.  It is for us to let our sadness focus on the horrible emptiness of violence.  Those who seek revenge and retribution are charting a course that guarantees that senseless hatred and destruction will continue.  Our commitment to law and justice, not tit-for-tat, must frame our response.

This dark season of the year feels even sadder as we struggle with murder that we can barely comprehend.  I’ve been thinking about the next Hebrew month, Kislev, when we’ll celebrate Chanuka (and the end of finals!)  Chanuka carries the message “Not by might and not by power, but by My spirit, says God.”  This week’s violence has made us angry and discouraged.  But as Shabbat comes in this evening, it’s an opportunity for us to refocus on peacefulness and compassion.  In a dark world, the Shabbat candles we kindle will dispel the darkness before us.  May we likewise create light in our hearts and minds, and may this Shabbat bring us peace and hope.

Shabbat Shalom,

Cantor Bob