November 20, 2019

How Will I Dance During Darkness?

As a husband and father living in Las Vegas, I have been shaken to the core by the act of pure evil that transpired last week in our city.  

It is a very painful and dark time. The mass shooting that killed 58 people and wounded close to 500 has left all of us stunned as we try to regain our senses in the aftermath of this inhumane act. We are mourning as a community and as a nation.

Yet, as the pain sinks deeper into our consciousness and our minds wander in dismay, we in the Las Vegas Jewish community are preparing to celebrate the happiest day on the Jewish calendar, Simchat Torah, when we celebrate the annual completion of the Torah reading cycle with joyful dancing.

How can we possibly dance and celebrate while our hospitals still are filled with wounded and our dead are not yet buried? What do I as a community leader say to the countless people from throughout the world who are turning to us for guidance?

Our history as a people is filled with persecution and suffering. Yet, we have documented stories of Jews defiantly celebrating Simchat Torah even within the walls of concentration camps. How did they do it? What was their secret?

The essence of Torah is selflessness. Its clarion call is for us to “Love our neighbor as we love ourselves.” It inspires us to believe in the essential good within each person.

So, let me share with you how I will dance this Simchat Torah.

As I hold on to the Torah, with my tightest embrace, I will close my eyes and reflect upon the many heroes, citizens and law enforcement officers who ran into the line of fire to save the lives of others. I will reflect upon the hundreds of people I saw waiting in line for eight hours to donate blood in order to help strangers.  

I will remember how I saw a wounded veteran wheeling herself around the long lines, handing out cold drinks and food to those waiting to give blood. I will honor the friends I have in this community — the doctors, police officers and volunteers who are working around the clock devoting themselves to helping others.

As I do this, my tears of pain will transform into joy because we know that the power of good within the many is infinitely greater than the evil within the few.

Although the pain and darkness may never go away, the light and joy it has revealed will shine forever. 

Rabbi Schneur Hayes is a Chabad emissary and educator in Las Vegas.