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Starting the Book Again

10/24/2019 04:23:35 PM

Oct24

This weekend, as we begin reading the Torah anew, our Jewish community is marking a year since the attack on the Tree of Life congregation in Pittsburgh. We will be marking #ShowUpForShabbat at our 6:30 PM service on Friday night with words of memorial, and we have invited members of the larger community to join us. There are many other observances throughout our community, including a gathering at 2:00 PM at Shearith Israel and “virtual” observance at 5:00 PM on Sunday. The passage of a year is cause for remembrance, but also reflection. The anniversary gives us pause to consider many questions, and we will have a chance to do that this Shabbat.

As we confront the roots and implications of anti-Semitism, we must ask: Is it just another manifestation of the many kinds of racism and hatred that afflict our world, or does it have a unique flavor? Many places and people have been the targets of violence in the last year. What makes us special? The attacker hated many types of people, but singled out Jews as his targets.

The anniversary challenges us to think about our own resilience. The Jews who prayed at Tree of Life have not yet returned to regular worship there. It is not for us to judge whether they should or not. How do we balance our need to mourn, to make places of death into shrines, with the view that the very act of living is the greatest rejection of those who would seek to destroy us? How soon is too soon to return to the scene of violence and replant? What our communities have in common is that we have continued to live, to learn and to love, wherever our journeys have taken us.

Our own Jewish community has thought, or hoped, that we were immune to the violence that so many other Jewish communities have feared throughout history. Even if we realized on theoretical level that we were exposed, we did not internalize that knowledge. This week, as we read Genesis, we read that Adam and Eve had a similar experience. When they ate from the tree of knowledge, they suddenly realized that they were naked, that they were vulnerable. There is no going back to an age of innocence that has been taken from us. And yet, it is only when Adam and Even leave the garden, clothed in garments, that human history can truly begin. We have left the garden, and our most important work still lies before us.

Thu, November 14 2019 16 Cheshvan 5780