Here is a sermon I delivered Friday night November 2nd, one week after eleven Jews were murdered at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Shabbat Morning. The sermon was delivered from an outline, written-out a touch more fully here.
The Lord Is Close to the Broken Hearted (Psalm 34:19)
It is with sadness that we come together on this Shabbat. It was supposed to be a November celebration of our Veterans. It was supposed to be a ‘get out the vote’ Shabbat. It was never supposed to be a ‘#SolidarityShabbat We Stand with Pittsburgh’ Shabbat. And here we are. The Shabbat after the largest massacre of Jewish people on American soil: A minyan plus one and we will most certainly never be the same.
Our Shabbat was taken from us in hate last week and this week, we gather together to reclaim our sabbath with LOVE. No one, no act of hatred, no vile rhetoric, will take away our faith, our sense of pride in who we are, in our people, and our history.
We come together to mourn and weep and like our father Abraham who sat beside his wife mourning and weeping her after her death. For in this week’s Torah portion, Chaya Sarah, the Life of Sarah, Sarah dies at 127 years old, Abraham weeps and wails by her side and then he gets up from his wailing and goes out to purchase a grave for his beloved.
Abraham mourns and he does a mitzvah. His sadness is not over, but he does not let it stop him from what needs to be done, from fulfilling his obligation. Abraham provides us with a good lesson today: A day when we do not put mourning aside. A day when we do not hide from our very purpose: To Live! To be God’s partners on earth.
We mourn. And we get up. We get up because we stand against hatred and we get up because we know that silence is the enemy.
- We mourn and we get up because we know Anti-Semitism is on the rise
- We mourn and we get up because 14 months ago we were witness to a gang of white supremacist thugs in Charlottesville with AK 47s in their hands
- We mourn and we get up because in 2017 we saw a 12.5 % increase in hate crimes –the 4thannual rise in a row and the highest total in over a decade
- We mourn and we get up because Anti-Semitic acts rose by 57% since 2016
- We mourn and we get up because # of hate groups is growing and the statistics continue…
And these statistics, they should not surprise us, although I know they are unsettling. Our history is a history of these statistics—of acts of hatred against us because of our faith; because people don’t want to get to know the other, because people fear what they do not know.
- We mourn and get up and do Justice because we are a people who are intimately aware of the effects of SILENCE
- We mourn and we get up because it is how we survive and how we thrive and how we flourish and because our tradition demands it.
We read in the Talmud: What is hateful to you do not do to your neighbor (Shabbat 31a) and act on Rabbi Hillel’s teaching, in a place where there is no human strive to be human (Pirke Avot 2.5).
We are a people who believe B’tzelem Elohim—we are all created equal & in the image of God. Oh, how the Jewish doctors and nurses lived this dictum while taking care of the injured killer on Saturday all while he was shouting hate against the Jewish people.
Yes, we work for the healing of the world. Not just some of the world. All of it. That is our job: Our Rabbis taught, God formed Adam out of dust from all over the world: yellow clay, white sand, black loam, and red soil. Therefore, no one can declare to any race or color of people that they do not belong here since this soil is their home. (Yalkut Shimoni 1:13)
We mourn and we act not from fear but from a love that responds to hate. We act not from FEAR: Face Everything And Run but from FEAR: Face Everything And Rise! Acts of Hatred will not take our soul from us. Acts of hatred against anyone are acts of hatred against all of us and when we work for the liberation of one, we work for the liberation of all.
We meet these acts of hatred and destroy them with the power of love. Of Hesed—of loving-kindness. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; Only love can do that.”
We mourn and we offer love. We respond to this most recent ugly, horrific murder of our people, this baseless hatred with getting up and doing the spiritual work of loving- kindness. One action at a time:
- We call out racial bias and discrimination
- We donate to and support HIAS
- We celebrate diversity
- We invite others into our homes
- We study and learn so we can grow together
- We educate ourselves and others about the evils of hate and we work to stop it.
- We have our hearts open to the suffering of each other and the other
- We show our love in countless ways.
We mourn. We Get Up. We Love. and in doing so, we receive a measure of comfort. We know this is not easy, for offering love in challenging times takes courage.
At the end of this week’s Parsha, Abraham dies, and his two sons, Isaac and Ismael come together, to bury their father (Gen. 25:7). I imagine it took courage to not only bury their father who had hurt and disappointed each of them, but this act of love, of burying their father took courage for them to show up to each other. I imagine that each received a measure of comfort from this mitzvah, from seeing each other in an act of giving, of kindness for each other and their father.
A few verses before Abraham’s death we read: “Isaac took Rebecca as his wife. Isaac Loved her and found comfort after his mother’s death.” ( Gen 24:67). This is the first time the Torah mentions love between people. It is Isaac, the one whom his father placed on the Alter, and who is in mourning at the death of his beloved mother, who is said to have found love. It is Isaac who found comfort through the love and kindness of another.
May the Holy One who weeps with us, send us comfort and love. May our people and all people everywhere be held with tenderness and love this sabbath. May our mourning and the memory of our eleven sisters and brothers help us Get Up and serve the living with fearlessness, peace, and love.
Ken Yihi Ratzon. May this be true.