February 23, 2020

The Holy Ones of Pittsburgh Must Unite Us

If we let the Tree of Life synagogue massacre divide us, those murdered in Pittsburgh will have died in vain.

Our Sages teach that when two brothers’ blood is spilled as one, it eclipses the sun (Sukkah 29b). The Tree of Life Synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh is a total eclipse of our sun. The enormous tragedy of eleven Jews murdered in synagogue on Shabbat cannot be explained away, compartmentalized or forgotten. Our synagogues are meant to be places of life, not places where lives are cut down. Our synagogues — and our churches and mosques — are meant to be places graced by holiness, not places defiled by violence and hate.

We read in the Torah in Parsha Chayei Sarah that after our Matriarch Sarah was eulogized, everyone began crying bitterly again. Each person experienced Sarah’s loss on such a deep level, they could not stop crying. After the Kedoshim, 11 Holy Ones, of Pittsburgh are buried, we do not have to stop crying. We lost not only eleven holy Jews, we lost eleven worlds. We lost what more of our innocence and our sense of invulnerability in America.

In spite of our anger, sorrow and fear, we must never let Pittsburgh divide us. No matter how offensive someone’s statements, each one is dealing with their own intense pain and anger. If we let Pittsburgh divide one Jew from another, one American from another, the Kedoshim of Pittsburgh will have died in vain, and the antisemites will have won a victory.

We also cannot turn out backs on God. The same God that took the Kedoshim of Pittsburgh, also inspired the earthly angels, policeman, that swiftly averted an even greater massacre. The same God also inspired the angles of lovingkindness that have surrounded Pittsburgh since Shabbat, showered her with love, compassion and support. 

We will never understand why God allows such unspeakable tragedies. All our lives are but a fleeting moment in the universe. However, we can devote our lives to walking in God’s ways by practicing lovingkindness, living graciously and inspiring others to change their negativity and embrace actions that affirm life, heal our world and comfort one another.

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