As I reflect and prepare for my sermons for the Holy Days, the events of the past year become grist for my sermonic mill. Although the events have taken place over the past twelve month, it is only natural that the most recent events come into view first.
It is hard to make sense of the shootings in the movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado and at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. What lessons can we come away with from these two tragic events and the many others like them. These violent acts invariably bring up gun control and security arguments. But perhaps more importantly, it reminds us of the toll which mental illness takes on the individual, family and community. Answers to this challenge are much more difficult.
If there is a message to carry into the New Year from these tragedies, it is in the heroic acts of those who sacrificed their lives for the lives of others. Rabbi Harold Kushner’s classic book, did not ask the question why bad things happen to good people for that question is truly unanswerable. He was reminding us of our responsibilities to reach out to and take care of those who have been touched by misfortune. We cannot answer the why but we can most assuredly know what to do when.
Tragedy brings the need into focus but it is the everyday smallest of actions which add to the stockpiles of kindness. May we never forget that ‘the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts.’
Donnie, Iyal, Morasha and I wish for all that 5773 be a year of compassion and caring.
Rabbi Harvey Winokur