Four years minus eight days ago, we were celebrating the moment our youngest child, Gedalia Hanoch, who received a name and became a member of the Jewish people. But our joy was tempered by the events of earlier that day. On November 18, 2014 (25 Cheshvan), a man filled with hate walked into a synagogue in Har Nof, and slaughtered four Jewish men as they stood in prayer, and one Druze police officer who was responding to the attack.
This Shabbat was Gedalia’s fourth birthday. Every year, as his birthday gets closer, I can’t help but dwell briefly in sadness over the loss of life that happened the day of his brit, remembering that morning where blood was drawn in a place of worship, in an act of pure hate and violence, by a man who celebrated death. And in our shul, just a few kilometers away, blood was drawn as well, as an act of love and connection to the generations of Jews who came before us, and we declared בדמייך חיי (“by my blood shall you live”) — this neverending chain of tradition is our life’s blood.
How can it be that this happened again? How can it be that on the morning of the brit of another little Jewish baby, another hateful person walked into another house of worship and slaughtered 11 people as they stood in prayer? How can it be that the hateful rhetoric that leads to these tragedies is still given a platform?
Maybe I am being stupidly optimistic, but I hope that in four years, that little baby, whose birthday will always be shrouded in the memory of the worst anti-Semitic attack in the history of the US, will live in a better world — where hatred is uprooted before it grows into violence, where people of all religions can attend prayers, attend schools, and just live their everyday lives without fear.