May 24, 2019

Shabbat Under Attack

“AS SHABBOS came to an end the week before last, my friends and I performed the havdallah ritual. Flame, spice, wine, song and brave words granted us the courage necessary to depart our sacred “island in time” for the messy continent of the mundane. But havdallah could not prepare us for the news coming out of Poway, California, echoing the horror exactly six months before in Pittsburgh. “There’s been another shooting,” my friend blurted, as she scrolled through her news feed, partaking in the very modern Saturday night ritual of logging back in to one’s devices to review the events of the past 24 hours. All the sweet slowness of Shabbos fled me in one bitter rush.

Tuning out once a week is an act of creative constraint. It yields “a seed of eternity,” a night and day filled with song, food, friends, rest, and love—a taste of the world as it should be. Yet there’s a helplessness in surrendering the sense of control we feel in being constantly tuned in to the news cycle. In a world that delivers one uppercut after another, it’s scary to let your guard down; who knows where the next punch might land.

Of course, there’s also a helplessness in being tuned in to tragedy, one that grew increasingly acute as more and more information rolled into my feed over the course of the week: details about the shooter and his white Christian nationalist manifesto; the hollow, cynical condemnations from President Trump; calls for Jewish communities across the country to bar their doors, hire armed guards, or move to Israel. Then there were the heroic stories of Lori Kaye, zeykher tsadikes l’vrokhe, and the pictures of her grieving family, zey tsu lange yorn.”

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