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Jewish Journal

Sandy Hook: Despair gives way to hope

by Rabbi David Wolpe

December 19, 2012 | 1:51 pm

Memorial outside the Sandy Hook Elementary school for the victims of the Dec. 14 shootings at the school in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 19. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

Memorial outside the Sandy Hook Elementary school for the victims of the Dec. 14 shootings at the school in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 19. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

At first it is an anguish so deep that it destroys faith in life. We are witnesses to pain and loss so immense that to yearn for a resting place, to find anything good or hopeful or healing, feels like a betrayal. In the face of such tragedy, do we seek out sparks of hope because we are healers or deniers?

Still, we are heirs to the 23rd Psalm, the legacy King David has left for those in the grip of darkness: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” The word we must cling to, the most beautiful word in the Psalmist’s lexicon, is “walk.” We cannot stay in shadows. There cannot be a permanent place of despair. We walk. We find ourselves, as a Newtown father said in the wake of the president’s address, “halfway between grief and hope.”  

The discussion following the massacre — of guns, mental illness, security — all of it is part of the basic human impulse to find a solution, to ensure that this will not recur, to confine the darkness within a frame of light. There is no end to evil. But more, there is no end to the human impulse to raise and save. We do not fully understand, can never fully understand. Instead of acceptance, emptiness, anger and fists that we futilely shake at the sky. Yet the Rabbis tell us (Aichah Rabbah, Petichta 24) that when the Temple was destroyed, God wept. We weep for the parents, the children, the nation. But as Jews, we affirm the faith that we do not weep alone.

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