The gruesome murder of 11 unique Jewish souls joined in their community sanctuary last Shabbat morning weighs on the hearts and minds of those preparing for our day of rest. Additional victims and first responders continue to face their physical and emotional trauma. From around the world we weep. The horrific reality is painful to the core. As the Pittsburgh community beared its soul to us in mourning, we listened to the stories of the powerful life journeys and the depth of character lost. We learned of the warm smile that greeted guests at the synagogue, the compassionate doctor whose ethics defined his professional impact, the war veteran and his wife who married in the very same sanctuary 62 years earlier, and the witty and intelligent Pittsburgh native who had made it heartily to 97 years of age. We, the people around the world, fell in love and gut-wrenching heartache at the very same moment.
This shabbat morning synagogues will read the story of our matriarch Rebecca, who after revealing her unique graciousness in an encounter with a visitor to her small corner of the world, agrees to travel to meet a suitor. After seeing Isaac out in the field, she draws close and the Torah describes, “he loved her.” Isaac and Rebecca converge from worlds apart, but when they come near and appreciate one another, the first love story of the Torah blossoms.
Just over a week ago, the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America met in Tel Aviv. Meetings, panels and study groups linked lay and professional leaders of the Israeli and American communities to share extraordinary innovative programs and visions for the Jewish future. The dedication revealed and appreciation of the contributions of each element of the relationship nurtured passions and nourished the shared love.
Over this past week, compassionate citizens around the world reached out to Jewish communities and neighbors extending their condolences and gestures of support. In Pittsburgh itself, the Jewish and general community stood shoulder to shoulder to grieve and reaffirm their shared values. Leaders from a local mosque collected tens of thousands of dollars to aid victims. In New Jersey, complete strangers approached identifiable Jews in the street with words of comfort. In California, congregants who arrived early to synagogue discovered makeshift memorials with an outpouring of cards and gifts at their doorstep. The Israeli city of Carmiel organized a national vigil to express their compassion and connection to their partner city. Torah study and prayers were dedicated to the victims. Meals, cards and gifts where brought to first responders to express the heartfelt appreciation for the sacrifices and bravery. The community the world over visited, donated, sent, cried and loved. People drew together in an effort to stabilized the foundation of goodness in the world.
Immediately after the Torah reveals the encounter of Isaac and Rebecca it continues, “And Isaac was comforted for his mother.” Isaac and Rivka’s love story developed in the shadow of the loss of his beloved mother. The closeness and love unleashed the profound emotional need, Isaac found consolation.
With the blessing that the coming together, revelation of the depth of character that surrounds and embrace of gracious love serve to console and heal the families of Pittsburgh among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.