Gilroy. El Paso. Dayton.
I cannot watch the news these last few days without feeling my heart break. Tears flow freely and abundantly. The loss of life and the impact it has on those who survived is devastating. And those who are injured will have physical and mental wounds for the rest of their lives.
My mind goes back to Pittsburgh and the Tree of Life… It races through my own Shul, and then out the door, into churches and mosques. I do not ever recall this much hate in my entire life. I do not ever recall this much violence in my entire life. Clearly things must be done. G-d has given us Free Will, and sadly some use it to carry our these heinous deeds. The rest of us must use our Free Will to do good, to set things right and to take action. Jews believe strongly in the thoughts to words to deeds pattern, and this goes for those who do good and those who do bad.
Mental illness affects the brain and hate infects it. Those thoughts leads to words in manifestos, dangerous rhetoric, dog whistles and tropes. And words have weight and power. Words can inspire action, both good and bad. Words lead to deeds both uplifting and heartbreaking.
So yes, we need to address mental health. We need to make sure people are getting the help they need and not stigmatizing it. And speak up and out whenever we see dangerous behavior. And this MUST go for speech and rhetoric on all sides… Racism and anti-Semitism and hate MUST be called out.
We all know, or many of us know, that Israelis face attacks or attempted attacks on a daily basis. Sometimes it makes the news, sometimes it doesn’t. Tragedy can too often be sensationalized. But it must not be ignored on any level. Hate begets hate. And while one day it may be against Jews, the next it will be against Muslims, or Christians and then African Americans or Latinos. It is a vicious cycle and it will take all of us to stop it. The last 12 months shows us this in sad, living color.
Since this is a Jewish blog, I write from a Jewish perspective, though I do feel a lot of the ideas I am learning are amazing, insightful and universal. And yet, I am also troubled that too many of us are ignoring the core of Judaism. There is such a delicate line here, and I do not want to cross into politics, as I know it is too risky and dangerous subject, so I will do my best to focus on Judaism. But suffice it to say that the means matter… There are too many things going on that can come back and bite us and haunt us. We need to look at the big picture and not just short term gain.
“We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are.”
― The Talmud
“Listen with your ears, not with your position.”
― Rabbi Noah Weinberg (OBM)The time to come together is now. Judaism is based on the pursuit of truth and lovingkindness and treating others as we would treat ourselves. Tikkun Olam, and the idea of healing the world is Jewish. I have heard Rabbis distill Judaism down into these core beliefs.
Rabbi Hillel said: “That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it.” – Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31
Too many remained silent during the Pogroms, the Inquisition, the Holocaust. We must never forget also means we must never repeat. Silence is NOT an option. We need to speak out, speak the truth and call it out wherever we see it.
“Be careful with the government, for they befriend a person only for their own needs. They appear to be friends when it is beneficial to them, but they do not stand by a person at the time of his distress.”
– Pirkei Avos 2:3A mitzvah is an action, and we need to take them on, small and large. But we must also know that silence and inaction is the opposite of that. Being honest and truthful and speaking up is an absolute and necessary mitzvah. Silence = Death. We have seen it, we have been victims of it, we cannot perpetrate it on others. PERIOD!
“Ben Azzai would say: Run to pursue a minor mitzvah, and flee from a transgression. For a mitzvah brings another mitzvah, and a transgression brings another transgression. For the reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah, and the reward of transgression is transgression.”
– Pirkei Avos 4:2
The world is broken right now. Let us all come together and heal it. What choice do we have?