My Dear Congregants,
Before we leave for our Israel trip, please allow me a few moments of your time by reading this message:
Friday is here. Everyone is busy planning for the long weekend, the celebratory “Presidents’ Day,” coming up this Monday. I, for one, have been incredibly consumed with preparations for our upcoming and exciting trip to Israel. Yes, we are leaving on Sunday. And yes, I was going to write a “happy note” letting you, my beloved temple family, know that Dave, myself, and our small but mighty group of Israel Travelers will be thinking of you, and sending you little “shaloms” as we tour Israel. I was going to say (with my usual virtual smile), “Le’hitraot ya’ll! I’ll see you when I get back to the States on March 15th!”
Also today, at sundown, all Jews around the world are summoned to place “grief” on hold for 24 hours, to engage in the Mitzvah of celebrating Shabbat.
But how can we wholeheartedly celebrate Shabbat in song and music, when the hearts of many people have been torn apart by the violent shooting in Florida a couple of days ago? How can we go about our “merry plans” to celebrate, travel, rejoice, and shop without acknowledging what happened in Florida two days ago?
I cannot do that.
So in addition to my “See you all soon!” I also have to express my sheer grief and communicate the following:
Yesterday, at TBT’s Hebrew school, I was unable to speak to our students about what happened in Florida. I wasn’t prepared because I didn’t feel I had the tools, information, nor time to process such a challenging, painful topic.
I needed more time to think, and to breathe, and to share words of comfort, encouragement, and support. I wanted to be able to find and provide you with tools to deal with this unimaginable act of evil.
This morning I found those helpful, resources and tools on our Reform Movement’s web page titled, “Jewish Resources for Coping with the Tragic Shooting in Parkland, FL.” It contains articles, resources, prayers, and readings – https://reformjudaism.org/blog/2018/02/14/jewish-resources-coping-tragic-shooting-parkland-fl
Two days ago, some of us exchanged gifts, chocolate, and heart-shaped greeting cards with one another for Valentines Day. But February 14th will also be forever marked as a “day to mourn, a day to grieve” for the families of those 17 staff and children who were so violently shot and killed, in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
“How painfully ironic it is that the perpetrator in this week’s school shooting in Florida chose Valentine’s Day to carry out his fatal plot,” wrote Rabbi David Wirtschafter in his heart-piercing article. Connecting this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Trumah (“gift”), with this horrendous act of hate and violence, Rabbi Whirtschafter wrote, “God spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person, whose heart so moves them (Exodus 25:2).'”
Rabbi Wirtschafter continues, “A day of love, romance, flowers, chocolate, amorous notes, and intimate poems turned into one of hate, fear, bloodshed, tragedy, and death. Cupid’s arrows were destroyed by the high-powered bullets of an automatic rifle. Our greatest gifts were gruesomely gunned down.”
What can we say to our children on a day of such mixed emotions? A day when, traditionally, we share our love and rejoice in our relationships. But on this day, this year, we were driven to mourn the loss of such innocent lives. This incident terrorizes us to our core because it takes us to a scary place: “Tomorrow this could happen here, in one of our schools. Tomorrow, I could be (PLEASE God forbid) one of those mourning parents, or teachers, or friends, or relatives.” Sadly, there isn’t much anyone can say to ease the fear of such an act.
But we can love.
On this Shabbat of gifts, and over this long weekend, let’s all take a few moments to hug our children, to hug each other, to hug our loved ones, and tell them how much we love and appreciate them.
And we can pray.
“May we be moved to ask if this is how God intended us to use the gift of life.
May we be moved to go beyond thoughts and prayers.
May we be moved to act on behalf of our children, our students, our neighbors, and our communities to demand a more responsible use of our most precious resource.
Children are among God’s greatest gifts to us.
Our ability to cherish, protect, nurture, love, and value them, is among the precious gifts we have to offer in return.
To receive a gift is to accept the promise that comes with it.
To give a gift is to express the expectation that it will be received with gratitude and utilized responsibly.
For the sake of our children-past, present, and future-let us become better guardians of our gifts. May this be our blessing, and let us say:
Amen”—Rabbi David Wirtschafter
During our tour of Israel, I know you will be in the very capable hands of our TBT team: Cantor Emeritus Charles Romalis; our staff, Marie, Meredith, and Dawn; our educator Marian; our group of lay leaders who’ll be covering services in my absence; and of course our extraordinaire President Joan and our Board members as well.
I wish you all love and peace:
Peace in your mind, peace in your heart, and peace for your soul.
Your loving Rabbi Meeka