What We Can Learn from the Deadly Attack Outside the Halle Synagogue
The shooting attack near a synagogue in Halle, Germany was yet another dreadful act of anti-Semitism on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. However, it could have been much worse if the 27-year-old attacker, who identified with the far-right, had broken the synagogue’s doors and slaughtered the 80 worshipers who were conducting the Yom Kippur prayers.
In a video he shot leading up to the shooting, the attacker denied the Holocaust, denounced feminists and immigrants and stated outright that “the root of all these problems is the Jew.”
Upon news of the two people who were shot to death, condemnations came one after another, from German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas tweeting that “shots being fired at a synagogue on Yom Kippur, the festival of reconciliation, hits us in the heart,” and “we must all act against anti-Semitism in our country,” through Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commenting for a “call on the German authorities to continue taking determined action against anti-Semitism.”
Among all the cries, prayers and warmth for the victims’ families, there is a clear demand for a significant shift to take place against the anti-Semitism that has rapidly spread worldwide. However, other than desperate words, there is an air of helplessness in the face of the growing phenomenon.
Helplessness. Desperation. They sound like very undesirable feelings. But could it be that such sensations are actually a positive outcome of the exponentially rising anti-Semitic crimes and threats?
Perhaps when we are repeatedly stunned by an irrational phenomenon that has haunted our people for generations—one which makes no differentiation between genders, between Yom Kippur and a weekday, and between synagogues in Berlin and Pittsburgh—then maybe this is what will goad us to look into what the Kabbalists have been trying to tell us for generations?
Whether in The Book of Zohar or other Kabbalistic texts, what have the Kabbalists been trying to communicate to the Jewish people? Simply put, if we Jews unite with one another, we invite a positive force dwelling in nature to spread not only among each other, but among all humanity. By awakening nature’s positive, unifying force through our unity, we can bring peace to the world. On the contrary, if divided, where every Jew remains within him- or herself in his or her own prayers, then we provoke the opposite: hatred and conflict. As Kabbalist Rabbi Yitzhak Isaac Haver wrote, “Creation and choice, correction and destruction of the world—all depends on Israel” (Siach Yitzhak. Part 2, Likutim 1).
Hours after the deadly shooting attack, German chancellor Angela Merkel attended a vigil to identify with the victims at a historic synagogue in central Berlin. She stood with the Jewish community as they together sang, “Ose shalom be Meromav” (“make peace in His heaven”). Ironically, sometimes the answer to our toughest questions can be found right under our noses. Sometimes we need only open our ears and listen to the words we’re singing…
- “Ose shalom be Meromav” (“make peace in His heaven”). It means that in our unity and our common prayer, we can make the upper force bring peace above;
- “Hu yaase shalom aleinu” (“He will bring peace upon us”), i.e. the upper force will bring peace to the whole of humanity;
- “Ve al kol Yisrael” (“and upon all of Israel”), i.e. where the role of the people of Israel is to unite;
- “Ve al kol yoshvei tevel” (“and for all the people in the world”), i.e. our role is not to receive the light of unity for ourselves, but to be a conduit for the light to spread to the world, i.e. to be “a light unto the nations.”
- “Ve imru amen” (“and say Amen”), i.e. then we will all—Jews and the nations of the world—be truly grateful for reaching the long-awaited peace.