Putting Words to Feelings
By Rabbi David Z, Vaisberg, 8/5/2019
Thoughts and prayers matter when they lead to action.
It has taken too long for my thoughts to coagulate after the 250th and 251st shooting this year. My first reaction tends to be, of course…why would we expect any differently? Meaningful change has yet to take place. Those who have the ability to implement change that could actually solve these crises of health, safety, xenophobia, hate, and home-grown terrorism seem unwilling to make the necessary changes, or even unwilling to acknowledge the real problems. And here, trying to find something of meaning to say, I sit in what feels like learned helplessness with a sense that I have no choice to accept that this is just the new normal and that I am the one who has to adapt.
But I do not accept this world as it is. I do not accept a nation where terror is wreaked and lives are cut down because of the rampant incitement and encouragement of hate, because of easy access to weapons, because of a culture where we fear the “other.”
I do not accept that there is nothing we can all do together to bring change. Because we can all make an impact. We can do so by showing love where others might show fear; by going out of our way to connect with someone who has been ‘other’ed; by banging our heads against legislative walls and spreading the word that we need the rule of law when it comes to weapons just as much as we need it when it comes to immigration, and that all of these laws must be balanced as much by compassion as by justice.
My rabbinic mantra these days seems to be lo alecha ham’lacha ligmor v’lo ata ben chorin l’hivateil mimena— the work is not yours to finish, but you are not free to avoid it (Pirkei Avot 2:21). It pops into my head every time another terrible event takes place, and perhaps the tikkun olam equivalent of Dory from Finding Nemo’s “just keeps swimming, just keep swimming.”
Not one of us can complete the work that needs to take place, nor can we all accomplish it in a single day. But working together, refusing to remain silent, and standing together for that which we know God demands of us, we shall overcome, and we shall find this nation to be a shining beacon from the hill once again.
So many of us are struggling to find our bearings in these frightening times. Please know that my door is always open for conversation.
Rabbi David Z. Vaisberg