Mourning the Tragedy in Poway, CA

May 2, 2019/27 Nisan 5779
Once more we are grieving and in shock because a terror attack has hit close to home: American Jews were targeted in Poway, California.  Once more we are saying Kaddish for a Jew killed only because she was a Jew: Lori Gilbert Kaye z”l.  Six days earlier Christians were murdered in Sri Lanka.  Three days later students were shot on the UNC campus.
We mourn and we grieve.  Again.  For Jews targeted and killed while celebrating Pesach.  Again.
And for University of North Carolina students shot on the last day of class.
And for Christians murdered in Sri Lanka while celebrating Easter.
And for Muslims gunned down in New Zealand during Friday prayer.
And for Jews killed while celebrating a bris in Pittsburgh.
And for African-American members of “Mother Emanuel” Church shot during Bible study, four years ago.
And for students and teachers gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
And for Israeli Jews murdered while celebrating Pesach in Netanya in 2002.
And for Palestinian Muslims killed while praying at the Cave of the Patriarchs in 1994.
And for wedding guests — Kurdish and Jordanian and Mozambiquan and Yemeni …
And the list goes on…

There is a time for everything.  Yes, we must mourn.  But can we live in a perpetual state of mourning, just because now we are able to hear about every violent tragedy that happens in any corner of the world?

No.  We cannot.  Life is not meant to be one long dirge, nor were we created to live in misery and fear.  “And God saw everything that God had made, and found it very good.”  (Genesis 1:31)  We are not permitted to ignore or dismiss the good.  Good is as real as bad, and far more prevalent: that’s why we don’t hear about it!  Imagine, “Today, several billion people accomplished something worthwhile, and though stressful, their lives continued more or less along an expected path.”  It isn’t news because it happens all the time.

As Jordana Horn writes:  “It is true that here in the U.S. in 2019, we live in a country in turmoil.  We are in an age where the dogs of hate are being encouraged and unleashed. We live in an era where the voices of hate are magnified through the mirrors of social media. I believe we live in a time where people look into their phones rather than into each others’ eyes and souls.

“I also believe that we can — and we must — change that. And we change that not by being ‘terrified’ or ‘distraught’ or ‘heartbroken,’ but by being determined, resolute, and, above all, ourselves….

“I am going to continue to build my home and my family around the scaffolding of who I am: a Jew, an heir to an amazing heritage and history.”  (https://www.kveller.com/they-try-to-kill-us-but-they-wont-succeed/)

So when something traumatizes you, take care of yourself and those you love.  Come sing and pray and talk with us this Shabbat, as Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein of Poway Chabad asked us all to do.  If you need to talk to children, try and process your own feelings somewhat first, so you are not transmitting raw trauma to them.  Listen to their questions and tell them you will do everything you can to keep them safe. (Good guidance here: https://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/15/health/tips-for-talking-to-children-about-the-elementary-school-mass-shooting.html)  Ask for comfort when you need it.  Say prayers for those whose lives are directly affected.  Deepen your own life.  As Horn says, “Yes, I will mourn with my people. But I will also live with them, every day of my life. And I hope you will join me.   We are the people who are charged with the responsibility of healing the world. It’s not incumbent upon each of us to finish the job, but neither are we free to desist from it. So let’s get to work.”