Today's news out of Jerusalem rends my heart.
The mere fact of being alive being means that each of us will experience suffering: sickness, pain, grief. These come with being human. Being human means we experience love and joy and connection, and it means we also experience sorrow and loss. Sometimes I struggle mightily against that truth, but deep down I recognize that it's part of the way the world works. Human lives contain enough pain just by virtue of being human lives. Why do we add to that pain with hatred and killing?
I woke this morning to news of killings in a Jerusalem synagogue. My social internet this morning is full of images of bloodsoaked prayerbooks, tallitot, and tefillin -- unspeakably horrifying for those of us who pray with these same garments, these beloved words. The images evoke the Jewish community's worst fears and most deeply-entrenched memories of trauma. We can't help imagining our own morning prayer shattered, our own loved ones attacked in these ways.
My social internet is also full of people responding to this tragedy in the ways that we always do,1 which heightens my grief with a sense that our conversations are futile. We're not getting at what really matters: when are human beings going to stop killing each other? What kind of spiritual and emotional evolutionary leap would it take, and how many more parents and children and spouses and siblings are going to have their lives shattered by trauma before we get there?
Slaughtering people at prayer is one of the most despicable acts I can think of. That's true whether the slaughter is committed by a Jew against Palestinians, or a Palestinian against Jews. And now I read that Netanyahu has vowed to "respond with a heavy hand," and that Hamas praises the attack (though Abbas has condemned it), and my heart cries out for God's sake, stop! Where can the spiral of violence and retribution take us but more violence and retribution? There has to be another way.
We need a larger framework of conflict transformation. We need to find a way to lift ourselves up, out of the positions we already hold and the things we've already tried. We need to seek to see the situation from a God's-eye view in order to create a path toward a different future. The Sfat Emet teaches that from where God sits (as it were) there are no binaries, no us/them, just goodness and oneness and love. As human beings we all have to find a way to see each other through God's eyes.
The worse things get, the harder it becomes to imagine anything other than continuing hatred and bloodshed. We have to imagine something other than continuing hatred and bloodshed. Please, God. Help us write a different ending to this story. And bring Your comfort and peace to those who mourn.
I pray to You God,
that the power residing in Your Great Name
be increased and made sacred
in this world which God created freely
in order to preside in it,
and grow its freeing power
and bring about the messianic era.
May this happen during our lifetime
and during the lifetime of all of us
living now, the house of Israel.
May this happen soon, without delay
and by saying AMEN we express our agreement and hope, AMEN.
May that immense power residing in God's great name
flow freely into our world and worlds beyond.
May that Great Name, that sacred energy,
and made effective
and be acknowledged
and be given the right honor
and be seen as beautiful
and bring jubilation.
Way beyond our input
of worshipful song and praise
which we express in this world
as our agreement and hope, AMEN.
May that endless peace
that heaven can release for us
bring about the good life
for us and for all Israel
as we express our agreement and hope, AMEN.
You, who harmonize it all
on the highest planes:
bring harmony and peace to us,
to all Israel and all sentient beings
as we express our agreement and hope, AMEN.
(translation by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi of blessed memory.)
1. One friend posts to Facebook to remind other Jews that our Muslim friends condemn the attacks and we shouldn't let the acts of extremists poison our hearts. Another friend posts that this act of violence took place within a framework of systemic injustice. A third friend says, how could you even mention the occupation at a time like this, when our own people have been slaughtered? A fourth friend points to images of members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine celebrating the massacre as proof that no peace can be made with people like that. Each of my friends says exactly what I would expect them to say; it's as though we're reading from a script.↩