Another weekend of violence. How ironic that the two most sacred public spaces in our communities, our schools and our Houses of Worship, have become places of violence and fear.
Over the course of nearly three decades, I have been welcomed into every House of Worship in our town. So too, have the religious leaders of almost every faith community visited Temple Emanuel at one time or another. Though our theology may be different, we share the same goal: to remove the physical and spiritual barriers that keep those who seek solace and support offered by our respective faiths from entering our sanctuaries. How sad that we must now learn procedures for an “active shooter” or that our public school teachers need to know how to protect their students in the case of a lock down.
Sometimes, I think the bloodshed that has tragically plagued our schools and Houses of Worship is the result of the deep divisions in our society, which for some, is conveyed in intolerant rants, coarse expressions of bitterness and anger, and heartbreaking acts of violence.
There is a verse from the Talmud, a compendium of Jewish law written about 2,000 years ago that teaches “ein sichah, ele tefillah,…every conversation, every word we utter is a prayer.” I believe if we talk to each other, and if our dialogue is civil, sincere and honest, our understanding of each other will deepen, and our respect for one another will grow, and that ultimately will lead to greater peace among us.
This coming Sunday afternoon, May 5 at 1 p.m., at Temple Emanuel, we will observe Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. There will be a brief liturgy of remembrance, not only for those who perished in the Holocaust, but sadly we will also remember those who lost their lives in Christchurch; in Sri Lanka; in California. Our guest speaker will be Richard Cohen, former president of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Mr. Cohen has dedicated his life to uncovering hate and eradicating bigotry and fanaticism.
Rooted in the Hebrew Bible is the idea that every human being is created in the image of God.Later, in the New Testament’s Gospel of Luke, Jesus proclaims, “The kingdom of God is within you.” The only way to combat bigotry and violence is to recognize the sacredness of every human life and the worthiness of all people, regardless of their faith or politics.
These are anxious times, but people of goodwill will overcome the prejudice and narrowmindedness of those who fail see to the Divine spark inherent in every human being. These are the sermons we must preach from our pulpits, and the lessons we must teach our children around the dinner table.