Uncharacteristically, I was finishing my weekly blog early in the week when dawn broke on Tuesday with the news of horror. My thoughts, my words, the ideas I had put on paper, no longer seemed appropriate.
So then I wrote a completely different blog, incorporating the shocking slaughter of the four Rabbis and police officer to “Toldos”, the weekly Torah portion. But I felt weirdly inauthentic about it.
I felt like a wordsmith, that I was carefully crafting a piece of writing using my writer’s skills, using intellectual skills, weaving ideas and connections. In other words, even though I felt angry, sad, sick and heartbroken, I saw that I was really writing from my head. And that’s just not right. Not this week anyway.
A lot of words have been said and are being said. A lot of words have been written and in these last two days in my search for meaning and coherence in a world that seems to be out of control and in free-fall, I have read so very many words.
There are words that clamor for the expulsion of all Arabs from Israel. There are words that seethe and incite genocide. There are lofty calls for repentance and prayer, and pleas to strengthen Jewish unity and loving brotherhood. There are bold political cries of defiance, even as we inwardly point fingers at those we consider to have been asleep on the job.
There is the poetic response that challenges us against all odds to imagine world peace, and there are those look inwards, seeking to embody within themselves the external peace that eludes us.
There is the bitter soul-wrenching unanswered cry of “Eicha” (from the Book of Lamentations), as we look up to the heavens and ask, “How is this possible?” “Why is this possible?”
There are the cynical and venomous words of politicians who pay lip service to condemnation, but then imply or say outright that it was Israel’s fault that our people are butchered.
And then there are the heinous words, the monstrous words, inexplicable to anyone with a sense of humanity, that ooze accolades for the murderers, and while they pass out sweets on the streets, they profuse words of joyous heartfelt thanksgiving to God for the tidings of the savage and brutal deaths of our innocents.
It is said that speech is the intersection of the physical and spiritual realms. But this is just a cacophony of noise.
So what can I add to these words? What do I dare add to these words? Who am I to have a voice that does more than just add more noise to the din that makes me want to silently scream?
When we learned of the murders of the Jewish teens, and the killing of our brave soldiers, we felt the brokenness of one Jewish heart. We cried as one and Jews across the board prayed in solidarity.
But the real mourning only belongs to the mourners. Not us. To say we feel their pain as our pain – however well meaning we may be – is really cheapening their loss. We can’t even come close.
One blog writer wrote how she felt guilty eating ice cream. Yes, we can eat ice cream. That is the point. Just like we slow down temporarily when we pass an accident scene and then go back to speeding a few miles down the road, we are back to our normal lives. But what if – instead of returning to our normal lives – we took on a new normal? What could that look like?
We, who are not the mourners, nevertheless can enter their domain. We can offer the comfort of our empathy, our love and shared brokenness. And what is the best way to do that? By not speaking words. When we enter a shiva house, a house of mourning, what do we do? The best policy is to remain silent.
And is so doing, we hold the sacred space of the mourner and we offer the gift of our full and complete witnessing presence. It is the mourners who speak of loss and love.
And therefore, I will not add my words and I will not speak. The words belong to the mourners. With their words, they invite us to embrace a new normal, and this is what they say:
With broken hearts, drenched in tears shed over the spilt blood of holy men – the heads of our families.
We call on our brethren wherever they are – let us come together so that we may merit mercy from Heaven, and let’s accept upon ourselves to increase love and comradery, between each individual and each community.
We ask that every person accept upon himself on this Sabbath Eve (Parshat Toldot, November 21-22, 2014), to set aside the day of Shabbat as a day of unconditional love, a day during which we will refrain from words of disagreement and division, from words of gossip and slander.
May this serve to elevate the souls of our husbands and fathers who were slaughtered while sanctifying God’s name.
God will look down from the heavens, see our suffering, wipe away our tears and put an end to our tribulations.
May we merit seeing the coming of our Moshiach (Messiah) speedily in our days. Amen.
Signed with a torn heart,
Mrs. Chaya Levin and family
Mrs. Bryna Goldberg and family
Mrs. Yaacova Kupensky and family
Mrs. Bashy Twersky and family