Sunday, December 16, 2012

Newtown

Jewish Response to Tragedy.  No.

When Bad Things Happen to Good People.  No, no.  You said you wouldn't do that topic except in person.

So...maybe the best thing is to be silent after a tragedy of this magnitude?  But how can you remain silent and just go and blog about something else, as though it never happened?

Judaism certainly has many ideas to share about pain and suffering.  Yes, but is this the time to share them?

No.

Judaism teaches that one does not comfort the mourner while he is still burying his dead.  So what to do?

Be there.  Be present.  Show you care.  Don't ignore it, but don't offer words of consolation.

Okay.

9 comments:

  1. I feel the same way, Ruchi. Mara over at Kosher on a Budget has a good post about helping, a good way to be present. http://kosheronabudget.com/im-going-to-ask-you-to-do-something/

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    1. Rivki...thank you for that very practical response.

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    2. I posted on my blog about this too. After having two days to process it myself.

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  2. I have felt very much at a loss over all of this. Over and over I get out my prayer book (Hours of Devotion: Fanny Nueda's Book of Prayers for Jewish Women) and turn to the page titled "At a Child's Grave". I pray for the mothers who cannot pray. Then I try to do something good as Rivki Silver suggested on her blog. I do not know if it is what I am supposed to do, but it is the only thing that I know to do.

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    1. Hi howgiyoret, and welcome to the blog. I noticed that you linked me on your blog and I checked out your blog and am now following you and appreciating your thoughts on your Jewish journey. Honestly, when I think of the parents of those children, I can't even imagine the pain. I definitely have extra passion in my prayers for peace and have the victims' families in mind. I don't think there is any "supposed to." But I do know that a response of some sort must be made.

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  3. Thank you for your wise words, Ruchi. I've been at a loss as well, but overwhelmed by sadness.

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  4. The Short Vort
    Good Morning!

    Today is Tuesday the 5th of Teves 5773 and December 18th 2012

    Uri’s Tears
    As I walked out of my home on a muggy, humid summer morning more than twenty years ago I saw Uri. He was leaving his home. He was small and petite even for a seven year old; and he was neat and very well kept. His tee-shirt was perfectly tucked into his short pants and his socks were pulled up to their maximum height coming almost to his knee. As the door to his home closed behind him I could hear the shouting from inside his house. I edged closer to his home and even with the door closed I could hear his mother yelling. Although I could not make out the words clearly, I could tell that they were directed toward Uri. As the decibel level of the shouting increased I could hear his mother saying something about clearing his dishes after breakfast.
    Etched on the cherubic face of little Uri was pain and anguish. Tears began to form on the corners of little Uri’s eyes. As he bent down to pick up his water bottle he turned toward me. The tears were now streaming down his face and were wetting the collar of his tee-shirt. He turned his face away from me in embarrassment and shame. His mother’s screams could still be heard and her hollering made Uri squirm in discomfort and humiliation. He looked away from me and scampered down the steps from his porch and onto the street. As he reached the street he turned to look at me one last time. Helplessly he looked towards me and helplessly I looked back. The pain on both of our faces bonded us together on that hot and humid morning in July twenty years ago. Uri felt helpless in his battle to contend with his mother’s fury and I was equally helpless as either I was unable or unwilling to intercede.
    Uri wiped his tears and ran toward the corner, holding his water bottle in one hand and covering his eyes with the other. I wiped my tears and turned to the other corner.
    I thought of Uri as I saw the faces of the parents who buried their children today; the first two of twenty funerals to be had in the wake of Friday’s inexplicable school massacre. One of the mother’s was asked about her child’s last day. She responded, “I gave him his lunch bag, told him I loved him and sent him to school. That was the last time I ever saw him alive.” That is when I thought of Uri.
    We are limited and often helpless in our ability to shield ourselves and our children from the evil in this world. People have and will perpetuate random and seemingly senseless acts of violence against defenseless and ostensibly innocent victims. Indeed, life is full of incomprehensible and unintelligible acts of heinous depravity. As Jews we have suffered what seems as more than our share of indecipherable and horrifying violence. We accept Hashem’s decree with hopeful trust in a better tomorrow as we are powerless to stem the tide of baseless hatred against us. However, although we cannot be taken to task when we are the innocent victims of hatred, we are empowered and therefore accountable and taken to task based on how we decide to react to the actions of others.
    If there is one lesson to be taken from the seemingly senseless killings in Newtown it is the realization that there may not always be a tomorrow to correct what we have corrupted today.
    I thought about Uri when I heard the mother of one of the murdered children state, “At least I told him I loved him.” How could she continue to live the rest of her life if the last morning of her son’s life resembled Uri’s morning twenty years ago?
    Our children and our spouses often ‘push our buttons’. That may not be in our power to change; however, how we react to their push is totally in our power.
    I thought of Uri today and not only did I hug my children tonight; tomorrow I will make sure to tell them how much I love them; and I will do the same the morning after that, and the morning after that…

    Ron Yitzchok Eisenman
    Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel
    Passaic, New Jeresey

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