I’m so Tired

Rabbi Amy Wallk Katz

 I’m so tired of offering my congregation words of consolation after some horrific attack on innocent people who happen to be gay, or African American or Jewish. I’m tired of offering words of comfort when there has been an active shooter in a elementary school, or high school, or some other public space. The gun violence is exhausting for me for all of us.

But here we are again.

This afternoon we gather together as a community to mourn. To hold one another. To acknowledge that we Americans and yes we Jews are in a very dark place. We are all tired of the hate. We are tired of living in a country where people hate Jews. And Muslims. And Christians who are too progressive. And gays. And lesbians. And immigrants.

And clearly worse than people hating is people not caring. Worse than people hating is people being too busy to make a difference. Elie Wiesel was right when he said the opposite of evil is not hate - it’s indifference.

I cannot comprehend how America in 2018 can be fertile ground for murdering Jew-haters. As in the wake of all recent American tragedies, we will undoubtedly argue over its root cause and what can be done to prevent history from repeating itself. But some things are clear: Gun violence is an American epidemic. Anti-Semitism is statistically rising in America. Politics and public discourse have assumed the vernacular of a street fight. Hatred and racism is alive and well in this country.

The question is, what are we going to do about it? Here are five suggestions:

  1. Vote. Get politically or communally active.
  2. Give back. Someone today has it worse than you. Help him or her make it better.
  3. Hug your loved ones. Stop sweating the small stuff.
  4. If you are Jewish, come to shul. Show the haters that they will never win.
  5. Learn why being Jewish matters. Study a text. Practice praying.

Jewish philosopher Emil Fackenheim wrote many books but he is best known for a single phrase, a new commandment. Fackenheim taught that, in addition to the 613 commandments of tradition, Jews should observe a 614th -- not to grant Hitler a posthumous victory. While Fackenheim’s remarks were directed toward the generation after the Holocaust, his wisdom is relevant for us today. He wrote.
“We are commanded, first, to survive as Jews, lest the Jewish people perish. We are commanded, second, to remember in our very guts and bones the martyrs of the holocaust, lest their memory perish. We are forbidden, thirdly, to deny or despair of God, however much we may have to contend with him or with belief in him, lest Judaism perish. We are forbidden, finally, to despair of the world as the place which is to become the kingdom of God, lest we help make it a meaningless place in which God is dead or irrelevant and everything is permitted.”

And so we honor the memory of the victims of yesterdays attack by embracing our Judaism and and living an active Jewish life. And I would like for all of us to lovingly recall

Joyce Fienberg, 75
Richard Gottfried, 65
Rose Mallinger, 97
Jerry Rabinowitz. 66
Cecil Rosenthal, 59
David Rosenthal, 54
Bernice Simon, 84
Sylvan Simon, 86
Daniel Stein, 71
Melvin Wax, 88
Irving Younger, 69

This afternoon, in a darkened world, we stand together. Committed to love each other more. To light together more. To tend that ancient tree of life together so that it grows, more, everywhere, when tended by us all, together.

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