Among the Mourners of Zion: What Rabbis Do

My heart is just beyond broken for the loss for our brothers and sisters Yosef Salomon z”l, 70, and his two children Chaya Salomon z”l, 46, and Elad Salomon z”l, 36, murdered this past Friday night in their home while celebrating the birth of a new grandchild, buried today.

I did not agree with their politics nor do I agree with the politics of their community, but this moment is not about that. That the Salomons were settlers and that some of their rabbis and relatives are calling for the annexation of the West Bank is neither the reason I sat shiva with them today nor a commitment I will ever be willing to embrace. I sat with them today because, as my dear friend and colleague, Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove of Park Avenue Synagogue, put it: this is what Jews do when one of us experiences a loss. This is what rabbis do.

And: The slaughter of a Jewish family at their own Shabbat table is an unutterable act of evil, as would be any act of terror against any family of any kind in their home. Or anyone. Or anywhere. Terrorism is beyond rationalizing. Murder is not contextualizable. To frame the murders of the Salomons as understandable in any way, as some might be inclined to do, is not only insensitive in the moment, but an abdication of a moral sensibility. This loss is trauma born of evil.

What is my responsibility right now, as a progressive American rabbi, as a Jew, as a human being?

My responsibility is to show up in this moment of shock and loss, as I would for a member of my home shul with whom I disagree. I do not fulfill mitzvot only for people with whom I agree. Jewish tradition brings us into each other’s lives, binds Jewish to each other and to the world. It reminds us that the most important thing we can do in dark, sad moments is actually quite simple: show up.

A related teaching: The mitzvah of visiting a shiva home and serve as a comforter includes the tradition of remaining silent. We are not there to talk or socialize. All conversation in a shiva home is meant to be about the person or people who have died.

And so, in this spirit, I offered my tears and quiet presence for the tragedy visited upon the Salomon family. I and my rabbinic colleagues with whom I’ve been traveling in Israel on the Progressive Rabbinic Mission sponsored by AIPAC’s education foundation showed up and offered comfort. This is what rabbis do.

May the Holy One comfort the Salomon family, their community, and all of us, among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

About the Author
Rabbi Menachem Creditor is Scholar in Residence at UJA-Federation New York, where his role is amplifying Jewish learning, leadership and values within the UJA-Federation community of supporters, staff, and partners. In 2013, he was named by Newsweek as one of the fifty most influential rabbis in America. Rabbi Creditor has been involved in the leadership of Rabbis Against Gun Violence, American Jewish World Service, AIPAC and the One American Movement, an organization dedicated to bringing together Americans of different faiths and opinions. Among his 16 books and six albums of original Jewish music are “And Yet We Love: Poems,” “Primal Prayers,” and “Olam Chesed Yibaneh/A World of Love.”