Splitting the Sea of Red

On the one hand, there just isn’t anything to say any more. A person with a gun posted a hateful manifesto to an American White Supremacist website, set fire to a mosque and then opened fire on a synagogue, killing one, physically wounding at least 3 others. It was six months to the day of a gun violence massacre in a synagogue in Pittsburgh. It was the 13th attack on an American house of worship in 2 years. It linked, yet again, Jews and Muslims as victims of deep hatred.

That this is not shocking should be shocking. Look what has happened to us.

As of today, there have been 113 mass shootings in 2019, defined by an incident of violence in which 4 or more people are shot. As of today, there have been 2,478 mass shootings since January 1, 2013. These statistics tell us why it might be understandable that we are not in shock when we hear of “yet another” mass shooting.

The world is just too much with us, it is true. And so we tune out, or perhaps we subconsciously stop even seeing the screaming headlines… We close our ears from hearing, our hearts from feeling…

Stop. (I’m speaking to myself at least as directly as I mean to share these thoughts publicly.) Stop this instant, and lift your weary head, and let your hot tears flow once more. As the great modern prophets Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr preached unceasingly, it is upon us to retain the ability to be surprised, to stay shock-able, to keep our eyes open to the world’s pain, to remember that this is only the world as it is, not the world as it ought to be. If we think the grief of our time is overwhelming, imagine (though we cannot) what it must be for our Loving God to stand witness as her children kill each other over and over again. Woe to us if we forget that God’s unfulfilled dreams depend upon willing human hearts.

After four hundred years in Egypt, the Israelites were unable to even hear Moses’s message from God of impending liberation. It’s near impossible to see the light when dark news grinds our souls. And yet the Israelites did emerge from their constricted place to the open air. Wonders did happen, miracles that defied expectations. Jewish legend has it that the miracle of the Red Sea splitting only occurred when a brave former slave stepped into the undisturbed waters.

Yes, the ongoing American Gun Violence Epidemic is unfathomable. It defies our hearts’ capacities with staggering pain and loss. But what makes us human is our defiance of that limitation. It is taught in Jewish mysticism that the Holy of Holies, once a part of the ancient Jerusalem Temple, was cosmically relocated to the human heart. So let us be brave. Let us defy the darkness and will our hearts to pulse with hope in the face of it all. Let us imagine a world free of violence, cleansed of hatred, a world that is safe for our children. Then let’s chart a course to split the Sea of Red we face today.

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.”
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