September 22, 2019

Who Will Rise Up for Me Against Evildoers; Who Will Stand Up for Me Against Workers of Violence? 

Reflections for Parshat Zachor after the massacre of Muslim worshippers in New Zealand

When I heard of the horrific terror attack in New Zealand, the pain of the Pittsburgh massacre came back to me. I immediately reached out to our friend Mahomad Khan, who joined us for solidarity services in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh Massacre, to express my shock, horror, and condolences. I reached out to the Consul General of Azerbaijan who has formed such as strong bond with the Jewish community. They are both in mourning. Jewish groups across the world have condemned the violence and offered condolences. 

Chief Rabbi Mirvis of the UK expressed it this way, “There can be few acts of greater evil than the massacre of peaceful people at prayer. The attacks in New Zealand were terrorism of the most despicable kind, callously planned & motivated by the scourge of islamophobia. The victims & their families are in our hearts & our prayers.”

I recently spoke in shul about our response to hate and violence against Jews, and while this attack wasn’t physically against Jews, it might have well been against Jews. It could easily have been, as the murderous evildoers behind these killings hate Jews, Muslims, people of color, and anyone else. 

Let’s never forget that God “will not forsake His people, nor will He desert His inheritance.”

God has put battling evil in our hands as a test.

Missiles falling on Tel Aviv, and thank God no one hurt and those responsible held accountable.

More anti-semitic flyers in OC, and more condemnations.

More politicians accusing Jews of dual loyalty and many more people pushing back and calling out the antisemitism.

Attacks and vandalism against Jewish institutions and police and communities in an uproar.

As King David asked, “Who will rise up for me against evildoers; who will stand up for me against workers of violence?”

Dearest friends, God did not go through the trouble of sticking with the Jewish people for 3,500 years for us to abandon God’s ways now. God needs us to be Divine Ambassadors on Earth. God needs us to be his Angels here to help build a world of justice and righteousness. When we fulfill God’s work here, we become earthly Angles.

King David asks, “How long will the wicked, O Lord, how long will the wicked rejoice?” Until righteousness will return to the Earth.

And how can we, small Jewish people that we are have any impact on the world?

We are a “light unto the nations” and we have the capacity to bring light into the darkness of this world. We have the Torah to guide us, and our courage and stiff-necked stubbornness to never give up.

Why is Israel hated more than any other country on earth? Because there is so much holiness there, so much goodness, so much to offer the world.

On the Shabbat after the massacre in Christchurch, we read Parshat Zachor, which describes how Amalek tried to destroy the Jewish people as they travelled through the desert. We re-read this passage every year on the Shabbat Before Purim, because Haman is a descendant of Amalek, and to remind us of the mitzvah to eradicate Amalek’s evil from the world. The terrorists in New Zealand are part of the resurgence of Amalek in the world. 

Don’t give way to fear and hate. Don’t let the evil of Amalek enter our hearts or minds. Act wisely and justly and walk in God’s ways and let us pray that we see an outpouring of goodness within our community radiating out into the world, an end to this spiritual exile, and age of teshuva, redemption and righteousness.


Rabbi Yonah Bookstein is co-founder and spiritual leader of Pico Shul in Los Angeles.