"There are NO words." Recently I've noticed Facebook postings which simply contain this phrase. They are usually in response to a meme or an event which speaks for itself.
More than any other time in my memory, we have become bombarded with the news of heinous acts of violence and murder, perpetrated in houses of worship for no other reason than senseless hatred. In my nearly two years as a spiritual leader of a synagogue in Northwest Arkansas, I have been repeatedly called upon by news media for comment. News of the most recent attack on the Chabad Jewish Center in Poway, Calif., reached me by way of a text message from one of the local news media outlets. My first (private) reaction was: "THERE ARE NO WORDS."
It is at times like these that we literally grope to understand these acts of hate. We reach for words to try to make sense of the senseless. Lori Gilbert-Kaye, a 60-year-old worshiper at the Poway synagogue, was murdered as she stood in front of the rabbi to try to protect him from the shooter. In the wake of her senseless and tragic murder, the following comment stood out. "God must have wanted Lori to do what she did, in order to save the rabbi's life."
Here's a word in response to that: No.
Can we believe in and pray to a God who desires someone to give up their life for another? Can we expect a God who, I believe, delights in life, to allow the horror and the sadness that was visited upon that congregation? It is easy to ask the question, "Where was God?" Theologians in all faith traditions have tried to address the problem of evil in our world. The shooting in Poway, as well as recent events in Sri Lanka, New Zealand and so many others, are acts of unfathomable evil. We feel helpless in the face of this evil.
We respond to these events with a combination of sadness, tears and anger. Let us remember that we are human beings fashioned in the image of God. And in that image, might we imagine that God, too, is both angry and sad. God has to be crying with us. We take our time to grieve, to vent and to reach out to others. And then each of us, in our own way, will find the venue to stand up, speak out and act. We will join together as people of faith to find the words where there seem to be no words.
Let me suggest the words of the prophet Micah: "It has been told to you what is good and what God requires of you: only to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."
Samuel Radwine is the cantor for Congregation Etz Chaim in Bentonville and cantor emeritus of Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. Email him at email@example.com.
NAN Religion on 05/11/2019
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