Yitgadal V’yitkadash Shmei Rabba…
May Your Great Name be Magnified and Sanctified…
(The first words of the Jewish memorial prayer)
Today His Great Name was sanctified by the lives of eleven innocent people praying during Shabbat services in a synagogue in Pittsburg. Their lives were taken from them for one reason only – because they were Jews. The murderer who killed them was screaming while shooting indiscriminately, “All Jews must die!” These eleven slain Jews, the Kaddoshim-Holy Martyrs, join millions of other Jewish martyrs murdered throughout centuries by crusaders, Cossacks, Nazis, and anti-Semites of all stripes only for being Jewish. Not again! Jewish life matters! All life matters!
My grandmother witnessed pogroms in Ukraine on the turn of the last century. She told me how her little brother was chopped in half by a Cossack with his sword in front of her eyes. Jews fled Ukraine and Russia seeking safety in America. During the Holocaust, six million Jews were murdered for simply being Jews. Some of those who survived came to America to rebuild their shattered lives. Who could have thought this might happen in the United States of America in the 21st century!
Now is not the time for condolences – according to the Jewish tradition we don’t offer condolences to mourners before the funeral – and it is not the time for healing yet. It is time for the tears; it is time for fury; it is time for rage. Yes, fury and rage. How long our people are going to be murdered only because we are Jews?! Ad mosai?!
How long will we allow neo-Nazi and white supremacists groups to lawfully assemble and spew their venomous hatred? The Internet is full of anti-Semitic propaganda. Why isn’t Facebook deleting such posts? The freedom of speech is guaranteed by our Constitution, but not the freedom of hatred, or the freedom of violence! These groups must be stopped! Hateful speech breeds violence. Hateful speech must be stopped before it turns into violence! After the war, West Germany passed the laws making anti-Semitic propaganda illegal. We must pass such laws in the U.S. We must outlaw neo-Nazi groups and outlaw any form of anti-Semitic propaganda.
Anti-Semitism is not a partisan phenomenon. We have a Democratic congressman who blamed a storm on Jewish bankers who control the weather; we have a Republican congressman who is a neo-Nazi telling Austrians to stop apologizing for the Holocaust. This tragedy, no doubt, will be used by politicians to advance their political agenda. Anti-Semitism is not political – it is a bipartisan evil.
Jews have been called “canaries in a coal mine.” Irrational hatred against Jews is always a symptom of a bigger problem. We have a problem in this country. We are the United States of America only in name. The divisiveness and hatred dominate the political debate in this country. The political hysteria has reached a feverish pitch on both sides of the political spectrum. Today they are killing Jews, tomorrow we are all going to start killing each other… This needs to stop before it’s too late!
We say in a memorial prayer, “may God avenge the blood of holy martyrs.” But vengeance is God’s. What we can do is fight darkness with light. A little light disperses much darkness. The Lubavitcher Rebbe gave us the prescription to this malady decades ago – random deeds of goodness and kindness.
This is what we all can do:
- Mourn the dead;
- Pray for the healing of the wounded (reciting Tehilim-Psalms is best, in such circumstances);
- Pray for the coming of Mashiach;
- Spread the love by doing (and encouraging others to do) random deeds of goodness and kindness;
- Write to Facebook, Google, and other social media sites not to allow anti-Semitic propaganda on their pages;
- Hag your neighbor; tell your politician to hag his or her political opponent – we must unite as a nation!
We may disagree on political issues, but we must agree on simple principles that are self-evident truths – violence is evil; anti-Semitism is evil; life is sacred. Jewish life matters! All life matters!
Yitgadal V’yitkadash Shmei Rabba…