Wednesday, July 2, 2014

On the Murders in Israel


Dear Sixth & I Community,

Our hearts are heavy as we read the news from Israel. Teenagers—children—murdered for reasons we cannot comprehend. Two days ago, we learned of the deaths of three Israeli teens, members of our extended Jewish family, Naftali Fraenkel and Gilad Shaar, both 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19. And this morning we awoke to learn of the murder of a Palestinian teen, Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir, 16, with unconfirmed reports that he may have been killed in revenge.

Again we have to say it? Enough.

This week's Torah portion, Balak, tells the story of a sorcerer hired to curse the Israelites, encamped in the desert on the way to the promised land. When Balak opens his mouth, though, the curse turns to a blessing. Mah tovu ohalecha ya'akov, mishkenotecha yisrael. "How good are your tents, Jacob, your dwelling places, Israel." We say these words at the opening of morning prayer services each day, the intent to bring us together as a community.

If only we too were able to change the tide with our words, to turn curses into blessings, vengeance into compassion, closed hearts to open ones. But instead we sit here in America, some with broken hearts, some ready to walk away from the mire entirely.

Do not walk away. Pray for the souls of those who died; pray for their families, if that is your way. Work toward goodness—Godliness—with your own actions, in your community. Engage people who feel differently than you, but engage with curiosity and an open heart, not with judgment. Turn your hearts toward Israel and toward the area that may one day be a neighboring state of Palestine, and learn, visit, meet, and engage.

This monthly email newsletter, Sixth & Spiritual, has the goal of bringing us together as a kehila kedosha, a holy community. We do that when we celebrate, as with the many joyous events announced to the right, and when we mourn. Today we mourn. May the families of Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal be comforted among all the mourners of Zion. And may the families of all children who are killed in wartime, innocents each one, find comfort as well.

Rabbi Shira & Rabbi Scott

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