In Solidarity with Pittsburgh: Reflections from Our Community Vigil
As we mourn and grieve, we find strength in the timeless words of God to Abraham and Sara, read in Tree of Life Congregation and synagogues across the world during this season. God said to them and to us, “I want you to restore blessing to the world. I want you to build a society based on love of God, love of your neighbor and love of the stranger. I want you to build a society of freedom and order through pursuit of justice, kindness and mercy. I want you to hear the voice of God in every human heart. This was and is our mission for the past 4,000 years.”
As children of Abraham and Sara, God calls on us today to affirm and embrace our mission.
With the murder of 11 holy souls, they can no longer be that source of blessing. In their memory and in tribute to them, we pledge to redouble our efforts to prove worthy of mending a broken world. There is no nobler and holier cause than to fight for human rights, dignity, respect and equality, harness our united voices against all forms of racism, stand resolute in the face of evil that threatens our world and see the face of God in every human being.
The Archbishop of Canterbury wrote in a letter to the editor of the NY Times following the night of broken glass, Kristallnacht at the outset of WW 2, whose 80th anniversary is a week away, “There are times when the instinct of humanity makes silence impossible” yet despite the outrage few acted.
We cannot be complacent.
Dante wrote in Paradise Lost – The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in a time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality.”
In the words of Rabbi Sacks, “The great challenge to religions in a global age is whether, at last, they can make space for one another, recognizing God’s image in someone who is not in my image, God’s voice when it speaks in someone else’s language.”
“Nothing has proved harder in the history of civilization than to see God, or good, or human dignity in those whose language is not mine, whose skin is a different colour, whose faith is not my faith and whose truth is not my truth.”
Today, we say to God, we will not tire in our mission nor grow weary.
However, as bearers of that mission, our communities of faith are called upon not only to fight the darkness but also bring the light.
To build a world of kindness.
We can act differently today from the way we did yesterday – in small ways and big ways. Because we can change ourselves, we can change the world.
We can move from where we are now to where we would like to be. This is where hope and redemption are born.
We stand with the families in Pittsburgh. We mourn and cry with you.
We pledge bonds of unity within our own faith communities and without. We will not wait for moments of crisis but do our best to see the Divine in all humanity.
It is ironic that that we are more connected than ever before but disconnected to the people who really count.
Turn off your cell phones. Stop spending so much time on social media.
When someone is speaking to you, look them in the eye and say “hello” to them.
Through one hello or one exchange with someone we may not know, we can spread and reveal some light. It is not enough to walk away from the tragedy that happened and say, “I am sorry and sad”.
In an hour from now, find someone to whom you can reach out. When you are in the supermarket, do not just exchange money with the cashier but look them in the eye and ask the how they are doing. When you are in an elevator, do not just stand there like a robot, say “Good morning”! We are all human beings!
If we see the face of God in each person, together we can light one candle and spread light in the face of darkness, goodness in the face of evil and healing in the face of hurt.
Together, we can reveal so many more Divine sparks.
There is not one person here who does not have an important and unique task in that process of contributing to the justice, decency and humanity of our world. Each of us is tasked with being a catalyst in making our community an even warmer, kinder and brighter place. One day at a time, one act at a time, and one life at a time – respecting the faiths of others because we are confident in our own; inviting others to join with us in building a world worthy of being a home for the Divine presence.
God willing, if we embrace our mission, God promises us we will be refreshed in our task every day. As the prophet Isaiah states, “Those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on eagles wings…They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not grow faint.”
May the memory of those who died today forever be a blessing and we pray that the Pittsburgh community and mourners be granted comfort, strength and consolation.
May we witness a time very soon when the earth will be filled with spirit of God as water covers the sea."