A Few Words from Rabbi Craig Marantz
Sandy Hook. 26 dead, 20 of whom were children. Never again!
The Pulse Night Club. 49 people dead. Never again!
The Mandalay Bay Hotel. 58 dead (and likely climbing). Never again!
Never again?! It’s more like: When will we ever learn?!
Never again will only remain an aspiration, a platitude, until we as a society summon the moral maturity, imagination and courage to heal the malaise that overwhelms, divides, and, in yet another devastating moment, destroys us.
My prayers are with the people of Las Vegas, among them are my brother and his family. My prayers are with us as nation. Can we change the vector of hate to love? Can we change the vector of injustice to justice? Can we change the vector of degradation to dignity? I hope so. But it’s going to take more than hope. I pray for leaders who possess the moral maturity, imagination, and courage to go and get the guns and to champion and secure the emotional health of our nation. And, I pray for an American people who knows how NOT to stand idly by while we bleed from much more than what has just occurred in Las Vegas.
Never Again will remain Not Yet as long as we act indifferently in between these brutal and hateful tragedies. Therefore, we must do our part to learn, advocate and act because, as the Talmud instructs, if our work saves even one life, we will have saved the whole world. (Sanhedrin 4:5) What a force for good we could be in the fight for more effective and wide-reaching gun control and an emotionally healthier nation.
During Sukkot, we encounter the Book of Ecclesiastes, which tells us that life is vanity-- all vanity; and as human beings we come and go, so what’s the point of all our efforts? All that is true is that we live to die and the earth goes on forever. We can respond cynically and say what’s the point of trying? Or we can take these words as a moral challenge, pull up our bootstraps, and get to work on the urgency of now. As I mentioned on Yom Kippur, there is NO messiah coming, and it’s YOU. Its US! We’re already here and our work must happen today. We must continue to do our part until we have built a nation that can look into is collective eyes and see the spark of God present. In the words of Jewish thinker Emmanuel Levinas, “Seeing the face of the other submerges murderous intent and inaugurates our spiritual journey.” What are we waiting for?
On Wednesday, in response to this recent tragedy, we will offer family-appropriate prayers during our Sukkot celebration. I will reflect on it during my Sukkot sermon at Temple Sholom on Thursday. Then on Friday night, we will wrap our Shabbat service around this season of disaster, both nature-driven and human-made. And, of course, if you are seeking comfort and would like to sit with me, I am here at the ready.
I hope your High Holy Days were meaningful. I am grateful to our lay leadership, our professional team and all the volunteers who made the Yamim Nora’im so special. The Spiritual Engagement & Ritual team and I would very much like your feedback. We have spent the last year doing a lot of experimenting, and we’d like to know what you think, both positively and constructively.