For weeks we have been dealing with tragedies wrought by nature. This week we have been forced to confront an even more gut wrenching horror, the senseless violence human beings can do to one another. As we still struggle to come to terms with the motives of the murderer, we should look to our tradition to provide context for how to confront incomprehensible destruction. The first and most accessible way to do this is in the words of, and actions of, communal prayer. Though the holiday of Sukkot is meant to be one of unbridled joy, we mix our current reality with the theme of the week to find that our confusion and sorrow is mixed with our gratitude for life and sustenance. This Shabbat we will come together for comfort, warmth, and community knowing that our prayers will not bring the victims back to life but that, perhaps, we will find solace in the embrace of the friends and family we have around us.
The second way we try to understand the massacre in Las Vegas is by reading our sacred texts. Our instinctual, most human response to tragedy is to cry out and challenge God, “how could You let such a thing happen?” Abraham makes this challenge to God before God destroys the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham says, “will the Judge of all the Earth not act justly?” Abraham knows what justice and righteousness look like, and the senseless destruction of human beings is not it. Abraham cannot stop the divine destruction, but he knows he must speak up in the name of what is obvious and right.
When we witness unspeakable horror, like what happened in Las Vegas, we must speak up to defend others in the future. Unless we call for change, we will be in the place of Abraham again and again, crying out for reasons why. Our words, thoughts, and prayers are only effective when they are accompanied by action. We pray for the spiritual healing of the families of the victims, but we know that their loss will forever be a scar on their souls. Let us work to ensure that, to the best of our ability, we do not allow evil to triumph once again. May we find comfort in the prayers and presence of our loved ones, and may we take the time to hold them extra close.
During this Erev Shabbat (Friday, October 6th 7:30) we will pause to recognize and remember those who died and we will pray for the healing of those harmed or traumatized.