Arnold D. Samlan
Jewish Educational Leader, South Florida

It’s Nobody’s Fault and It’s Everybody’s Fault

As the director of security at one Jewish organization said to me: It was bound to happen, it was only a question of when and where. It was yesterday and it was at Tree of Life, a congregation in Pittsburgh.

The finger-pointing and blame game began almost immediately.

It was the president’s fault.

It was the fault of the liberals who want gun control.

It was the fault of the victims, because their synagogue didn’t have armed guard (I have no idea whether it did or not, by the way).

It was the fault of Israel’s policies.

It was the fault of all Jews for being too complacent.

It was the fault of the mental health system.

It was the fault of one single person with hatred and bigotry and weapons.

These are the absolutely unconstructive, if not outright dysfunctional responses from people trying, unsuccessfully, to make sense of something that cannot be rationalized away. Like the Holocaust or natural disasters, if we can explain it, it will put our minds at ease. But, like the Holocaust or natural disasters, we cannot.  So, we bicker over our responses and come up with all sorts of ways of avoiding what we really have to do today – mourn, and what we have to do tomorrow – act.

The individuals who are creating chaos in our society are not monolithic. They are responding in horrible ways to very complex times. To expect their motivations to fall into one single category is absurd. As a result, the appropriate responses (both in mourning and in action) are going to be complex.

Here is the only simple thing: All those who are conducting acts of terror and of mass murder are creating chaos and festering more hatred and violence.

We are in a war, but probably not the one you think: It’s the war that the Dead Sea sects of the Jewish people spoke of in ancient times: The Sons of Darkness against the Sons of Light. But unlike the tribal designations for who are the forces for darkness and who are the forces for light, today the forces for darkness are those who promote anger, dissent, violence and terror. Today’s forces for light are those who are, to use the words of the Jewish tradition: rachamanim b’nei rachamanim, merciful humans who are the descendants of merciful ones. In other words, those whose characteristics of mercy are so ingrained on their souls, that it is practically part of their DNA.

Today, the Jewish community and its allies sit shiva. We mourn, comfort the mourners and each other.

Tomorrow we mobilize for action. We join the war on the side of the Sons of Light through acts of kindness, increasing mercy and love, decreasing the capacity for violence, and taking necessary measures to protect our community and our society.

About the Author
Rabbi Arnie Samlan, Chief Jewish Education Officer of the Jewish Federation Broward County, Florida, Is a rabbi and Jewish educator whose work has impacted Jewish learners, community leaders and professionals across North America. All blog posts are his personal opinions and are not meant to reflect viewpoints of the Jewish Federation.
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