Why does anyone’s life really matter?

#blacklivesmatter, #bluelivesmatter, the real question is — why does anyone’s life really matter?

It is heart wrenching and sickening to see the images of innocent people killed. No matter who they are. Innocent people should not be killed. Is it racism? Is it hatred? Possibly. Will blaming one group or another help? Not at all. What, then, is the solution?

In the summer of 1991, a tragic accident turned into three days of riots. During the Crown Heights Riots a Chassidic Jew (from Australia too, incidentally) was murdered and numerous people were injured. Over a million dollars worth of damage was caused.

A few days after the riots, on Sunday, August 25th 1991, Mayor David Dinkins visited 770, the headquarters of Chabad, and received a dollar for charity from the Rebbe. During the meeting, Mayor Dinkins mentioned his hope and goal of bringing together people from “all of our communities, both sides.” The Rebbe made sure to add that in truth, “We are one side. We are one people, living in one city, under one administration and under one G-d.”

There is so much truth in that statement and I think it contains the solution for the recent violence in this country.

First, it’s not about one community vs. another; we are all one and we should focus on what unites us rather than what divides us. This is not cliche, and it’s not necessarily easy – but it’s imperative if we want to solve the problem.

But the last part is even more important: “Under one G-d.”

For too long, the mention of G-d has been systematically removed from public dialogue. I know about the First Amendment and don’t tell me it outlaws the mention of G-d. It absolutely doesn’t. The fact is that this country wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the belief in G-d. The Declaration of Independence attributes our “unalienable rights” as coming from G-d.

I’m not advocating any particular religion and that is expressly prohibited by the First Amendment, but belief in G-d is integral to creating a cohesive, unified and peaceful society.

Without it, the question asked above is a serious question with lame answers: Why does anyone’s life really matter? What makes it wrong to hate? What makes it wrong to kill as a result of that hate?

It’s a serious question and it needs a serious answer. All life is precious because the Creator of that life has told us as much. True unity can only be realized when we are well aware that we are all “under one G-d.”

This past Shabbat, Gimmel Tammuz, was the 22nd yahrtzeit of the Rebbe. In a 1956 letter to the then President of Israel, Yitzchak Ben-Tzvi, the Rebbe wrote: “From the time that I was a child attending cheder, and even earlier than that, there began to take form in my mind a vision of the future redemption—the redemption of Israel from its last exile, redemption such as would explain the suffering, the decrees and the massacres of exile…”

The Rebbe dedicated his entire life and created a global network of emissaries (Goldie and I are proud and honored to be part of them), all for one goal: to raise the G-d consciousness of the entire world and finally usher in the period of the redemption. A time when “the entire world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d, like water covers the sea bed.”

Individually there may be little we can do about the challenges our country, and the world, face today, but we can do this: Actively spread goodness and kindness. Instead of engaging in the blame game – it’s racism/police hatred/the media – whoever’s fault; engage in doing good.

In honor of this holy day of Gimmel Tammuz, the Rebbe’s Yahrtzeit, let us commit to adding in mitzvot and positivity – especially when things look so dark.

It’s needed now, more than ever before.

About the Author
Rabbi Yossi Grossbaum is the co-founder and Executive Director (and chief cook and bottle washer) of the Chabad Jewish Community Center located in Folsom, California and serving the entire region. He relishes the opportunity to discuss religion and politics with anyone who is interested and he is passionate about sharing age old Jewish wisdom with anyone who will listen. One day he will write a book entitled "Never Fall in Love."