This past week was a difficult one for our nation.
Within days of the celebration of our nation’s birth and independence, a time when we reflect upon and express gratitude for the promise offered by America, we have witnessed images of senseless deaths across our country. Our world seems inverted, as the loss of life has come at the hands of police and the lives of police have been taken. Families have been shattered and communities torn apart as loved ones are mourned and buried.
In the aftermath of the turmoil and tragic events many question what is happening to our nation. The voices of hate, of division, of violence and of racism seem to be so pervasive that we cannot help but feel a sense of overwhelming despair and anguish.
Yet at precisely a time such as this, we must raise our voice, a voice of reason, of hope, and of tolerance to counter the darkness that threatens to envelop us, for the Bible introduced the notion that we should hope, work for and strive to make our world a better place. And so we turn to our tradition for inspiration to persevere and for the encouragement to carry on and to cast light on dark places.
The prophets remind us and tell us eloquently that, “we have not come into being to hate or to destroy.” Rather, our tradition affirms that our purpose is to create, to make the word a better place, and to love God. We do this by performing acts of lovingkindness, by the sacred task of working for tikkun olam, and by recognizing that all of humanity is created b’tzelem Elohim, in the Divine Image.
Our sages taught that the story of creation in the Torah focuses on the creation of the first human being so that we would know that we all have the same origins, that we share a common lineage and that every single life is precious.
Let us pause in the face of such horrific acts. Let us reflect on what unites us. Let us rededicate ourselves to work in our communities with others so we will be among those who work to bring peace, understanding and healing to our fractured nation.
Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, for JFNA
President, Rabbinic Cabinet of JFNA
July 11, 2016
Sources and Texts:
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Leviticus 19:18
Rabbi Akiba proclaimed that this is the greatest principle of the Torah.
“Justice, justice shall you pursue.” Deuteronomy 16:20
“Great is peace, for even the angels in heaven need peace, since as we say, ‘God makes peace in the heavens above.’ If peace is necessary in the heavens, how much more so is it necessary on earth, where there are so many conflicts.” Numbers Rabbah 11:7