Today, the day after the Newtown mass-shooting, I think of two verses from Jewish prayers:
“N’kadesh et Shim’cha b’o’lam, k’shem sh’mak’di’shim o’to bi’sh’mei marom” – “We will sanctify Your Name in this world as [angels] sanctify it in the heavens above…”
and
“Oseh shalom bim’ro’mav, hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu” – “The One Who is creating peace in the high heavens is creating peace on us…”

The first affirms that we’ll “sanctify G-d’s Name” in this world — a world where G-d’s Presence is not always clear — the same way that angels do in Heaven (where G-d’s Presence is always clear). The second affirms that G-d is always giving us peace.

The rabbis tell us: “Peace” is a Name of G-d. [1]
They mean that the “sanctity” of G-d’s Name includes peace; peace is part of our experience of G-d’s Presence.

We learn from this that G-d responds in kind to our prayers and words and thoughts. If we “sanctify G-d’s Name” to ourselves, or in our world, G-d’s gives us the holiness — the peace — we seek.

How do we “sanctify G-d’s Name?” By affirming that G-d is already giving us the very quality we seek.

How do I sanctify G-d’s Name after the shootings of little children in Newtown?

Inspired by the example of Rabbi Roger Ross (one of the rabbis who ordained me), who went to “Ground Zero” in the days immediately after 9/11, offering bottled water and candy bars to those who were working there and who might be hungry or thirsty, I’ve immediately tried to find a way to volunteer my services – as a rabbi or as a social worker – to the Newtown community.

My colleague, Rabbi Shai Specht, founder and director of “Or Ahavah Jewish Outreach Center of Southern Nevada,” [2] emailed me the following wise thought: “Another thing you can do is organize a local (right where you are) vigil for the victims of this tragedy or organize an interfaith service etc.”

Another friend, who also works professionally in the “Health” field, shared what had been said to her about “the importance…for all of us to also bring to ourselves what is not this tragedy.  [One person she knows] had plans to listen to a live concert on the radio, after listening to several hours of the Connecticut news.” I understood what she meant, based on experiences I’ve had dealing with other stressful events: If I can moderate or lessen my response to the event while it’s happening or immediately afterwards, I can help diminish its long-term impact on me. “Let it pass” more easily.

I’ve inquired about volunteering through several channels – the Newtown Police Dept. and rabbinic, social work, Masonic and other organizations of which I’m a member. No immediate response, but it might be too soon, yet. [A few days after this post, I received notice that my name had been placed on a list of available volunteers.]

I’m struck at the relief that even offering to help gives me. I realize that part of my initial reaction is a sense of “helplessness.” I’m sure that others feel it, too. Such a feeling can only be relieved by taking an action.

What actions can people take?

You can contribute to the local church(es) or synagogue in Newtown. If there’s an organization that you know to be involved there, you can contribute to that, too. Or, perhaps you can contribute to some other organization that’s helpful in a way that you feel is relevant to what happened in Newtown (for example, a “gun control” candidate or organization).

But contributing money is the easy part.

On Facebook, a friend posted a graphic that compared the number of deaths from handguns in the U.S. to those in other countries. We – the U.S. – were astronomically, disproportionately higher.

Is there something wrong with our society or culture that’s giving rise to increased violence – especially mass-violence – and more frequently? Is there a degree of tension that emotionally vulnerable individuals are finding intolerable? Is there too much of a confrontational, uncompromising model (in movies, TV and other media) in how we handle disagreement? Do we lack sufficient personal and interpersonal peace?

Our teachers tell us that “faith,” which brings peace, means recognizing G-d’s Goodness in all things, in all events. Now, though, it is a time only for accompanying the grieving in their grief.

There might never come a time when we can look on this and call it “good” in any way. But when we’re able, perhaps we can bring some good out of it, as poet Marianne Moore wrote:

“If…all these agonies
and wound bearings and bloodshed —
can teach us how to live,
these dyings were not wasted.” [3]

True peace is only found in — and from — G-d. If you don’t believe this, at least ask yourself, “Could I be more peaceful — to myself and others — than I am now?”

Maybe we must first at least begin the attempt to make ourselves peaceful:

“There never was a war that was
not inward; I must
fight till I have conquered in myself what
causes war…” [4]

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[1] Perek ha-Shalom and  Shabbat 10b

[2] see: https://www.facebook.com/JewishOutreachCenterSothernNevada or Http://RabbiShai.com

[3] (from) Moore, Marianne: In Distrust of Merits, (poem) 1944

[4] ibid.

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