Friday, March 7, 2008


Imagine yourself sitting in a library, surrounded by silence. Except for the echoes of a distant cough or the clearing of a throat, all is quiet. Suddenly, the serenity of study is shattered by the outburst of gunfire. A terrorist, brutal and cold-blooded , takes aim at twenty year old students, and they fall to the floor blanketed in blood. Bedlam brakes loose, deadly violence has silenced the sanctity of wisdom and knowledge.
This imaginary scenario became reality in the holy city of Jerusalem. There was one essential difference. The Jerusalem library resounded with holy words, the words of study and prayer. "While students prayed, the gunman entered the first floor library of Mercaz Harav yeshiva, spraying the religious students with gunfire from a Kalashnikov rifle." (New York Times)
Stunned, shock then erupts into rage. Yeshiva students weep, others cry for revenge, still others demand the disbanding of the current government. And in Gaza, thousands dance and cheer celebrating the carnage of holy Jewish lives with rifles blaring into the cold night air.
I wonder-how do we contend with this insanity, with this barbarism, with this evil? Is there any comfort anywhere? Is there any reason for gratefulness, on this Sabbath eve?
I search my mind and soul for some response. I recite the traditional blessing pronounced at a time of loss and sadness-"Baruch Dayan Ha-emet"-Praised are You the Judge of the Truth.
The realization that filters into my mind from these words of apparent acceptance is the faint understanding that the only hope that hovers over our broken hearts at a time such as this is the gratefulness we could all feel that ultimately the Truth will triumph.
I think of the Rabbinic interpretation based on the words of Genesis 27:22 : "The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau."Amidst the sacred and fervent utterances of evening prayer , foremost of which is the final prayer for "shalom," for peace, the heinous hand of Esau violently and perversely desecrates, with pain and death , a sanctuary of words yearning for Truth.
The Rabbis remind us that as long as words of Torah are heard in our homes and holy places-schools, yeshivot, synagogues, houses of study- ultimately, in the godly perspective of eternal history, wisdom, peace and Truth will prevail and the sound of violence will no longer be heard in the land.
On this Sabbath eve, I am grateful for the gift of Torah, for the tender lives of its precious students, and for the conviction that the voice of Jacob will echo in the hearts of all people everywhere.
Shabbat Shalom.

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