Friday, November 20, 2015

Dealing with Sobering Times….. Again

Shabbat is coming and we are having our monthly Kabbalat Shabbat (special service to welcome our day of rest, for my non-Jewish friends) Partnership Minyan at our house. We are leaving for Israel on Wednesday. My entire family will be together to help me celebrate my birthday in a few weeks. I am in the midst of planning two conferences on Inclusion and Acceptance of all members of our communities for different populations – one for Orthodox Jews and one for people of all faiths. All of these involvements are so uplifting to me and I am so filled with gratitude to be able to have all of these wonderful experiences and so many more blessings in my life. And yet, my heat is so heavy.

Here we are again! Paris, Marseille, Chad, Israel, Cameroon, Turkey, Nigeria, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Pakistan, Iraq, Mali – these are just the most recent sites of the approximately 300 incidents in 2015 attributed to terrorism. On one hand, it makes one afraid to think of travel, going out about one’s normal day, and just living for fear of their loved ones, community members and the general devastation that comes from thinking about what is happening in our world.

Peace rallies, tributes, creation of places of memory and comfort and community gatherings, people reaching out to help each other, Moslems gathering in France and elsewhere to proclaim in so many languages “We are Moslems and against terrorism,” staying glued to the television, internet and every possible news source, and just trying to get through the day…. This is how we fight the terrorism that threatens ALL good people, innocent citizens and purposeful and heartening communities of faith.

We are told that we are to go about our lives and we try to do the best we can. Our fellow citizens of the world in Paris and Marseille are showing us how to do this now as Americans did after 9/11 and as the citizens of the cities and countries listed above are doing and as the good people in the lands most threatened and vulnerable do every day. We KNOW not to take each other and our many blessings for granted, but this reminds us in such a palpable way to do so. How do we, as my daughter, Yoella, and I were discussing (as we often do) this week, continue to live and hold onto our values and our ethics and not let them be compromised by those who are responsible for these breaches in our daily lives and the well being of the masses? How can we not?

This week’s Torah reading in the Jewish cycle of weekly portions is about Yaakov (Jacob) and his isolation when he has been sent from his home because of his mother Rivkah’s (Rebeccah) concern for the well-being of both of her sons. As she states in our Torah narrative, “Shall I lose both of my sons?” Yaakov and Esau are very different, there has not been honesty amongst them, and there is now an irreconcilable rift, which Rivkah feels can only be avoided, not healed. So that is, we are told by some of our commentaries, both classic and more modern, the reason that she separates her sons, forgoing her own motherly instincts to keep her children as close as possible.

As a mother, I know all too well that desire to keep all safe – our family, my children, their children, their friends, our community, our world! Golda Meir often spoke about how she led Israel when she was Prime Minister with the mindset of a mother. As a mother and as a woman, I totally get this as I am sure so many of us do. How do we protect ALL innocent citizens?

Golda Meir poignantly stated that she was angry with those who killed her children, the Israelis, but she was more angry and distraught who forced her children, the Israelis to kill others. This sentiment is clearly from the mindset of one who values life – the life of all of God’s human beings. Let us hold onto this notion that we want to protect all innocent life and now the challenge is how do we do this in the face of the threats that are facing ALL of us no matter where we are? How do we help the Syrian refugees? How do we continue to engage in initiatives that bring together Palestinians and Israelis in so many successful ventures, ranging from concern for the environment to sharing circus arts, to living room dialogue groups and so much more? How do we NOT judge each other by how we look and the association of that appearance with those who use a similar one to act in the name of terrorism, nothing else!

Terrorists are NOT acting within the context of a religious framework, but rather taking the faith that so many of us believe in so fervently and corrupting it, offending all believers in our communities of faith. I was horrified by the murder of Shira Banki z’l by an extremist who was NOT acting within a Jewish context and others like him, and am now equally horrified by those who are perverting what Islam teaches. May we all find a way to live together and support each other so that our only response is not to have to send “the other” away from us – My prayer is that we continue to work together so that it is so clear that there are many more masses of people who are peaceful people of faith and NOT terrorists.

May this be a peaceful Shabbat and Sabbath for all.

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