On Sunday, August 12, I was honored to represent the Board of Rabbis/Jewish Federation and the Los Angeles Council of Religious Leaders at “A Day of Hope and Healing: Shabad Remembrance of the Wisconsin Shooting.” The commemoration was held on the steps of LA City Hall and featured music, prayers and remarks from Sikh leaders, elected officials, law enforcement representatives, and faith leaders. I share these reflections with the hope and prayer that we will redouble our efforts to make our community a true City of Angels.
Reflections: A Day of Hope and Healing
Los Angeles City Hall - August 12, 2012
Rabbi Mark S. Diamond
Los Angeles Council of Religious Leaders
Executive Vice President
The Board of Rabbis of Southern California
The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles
ראה אנכי נותן לפניכם היום ברכה וקללה
“See, this day I set before you blessing and curse.”
This verse from Deuteronomy opens the weekly Torah portion that will be recited in synagogues throughout the world this coming Shabbat. We come together today to confront curses, and to celebrate blessings. Today we mark a horrific, senseless act of terrorism that struck at the very heart of our community and our nation.
We join together this afternoon to express our heartfelt concern and sympathy on last week’s tragic act of terror in Wisconsin. We are shocked and horrified by the brutal attack on the Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee. Our thoughts and prayers are with the members of the Sikh community. We stand in solidarity with our Sikh brothers and sisters during this difficult time, as we pray for strength, comfort and healing for the victims, their families and friends.
Today we deplore the curse of gun violence that plagues our nation. We cry out against the curse of causeless hatred that divides our community. We abhor the curses of prejudice and intolerance that set neighbor against neighbor.
We say with a loud and clear voice: An attack on one house of worship is an attack upon all of us. An assault on one faith community is an assault upon all of us.
Even as we denounce curses, we honor blessings in our midst. We are thankful for the blessings of worshippers at the Sikh temple who sacrificed their lives so that others might live. We are grateful for the blessings of emergency personnel and other first responders who ended the carnage and rescued victims at the scene. We give thanks for the blessings of the worldwide Sikh community and our own Sikh community here in Los Angeles, and celebrate the bonds that unite us.
There is another verse in the weekly Scriptural portion that helps me to cope with the tragedy in Oak Creek.
בנים אתם לאדני אלוהיכם , we are taught in Deut. 14:2. “You are children of the Lord your God.” Two rabbinic sages debate the meaning and import of these words in a passage in the Talmud. Rabbi Yehudah said: You are called God’s children only if your behavior makes you worthy of the title. Rabbi Meir replied: You are called God’s children no matter how you behave.
Rabbi Yehuda argues that there are times when our conduct is so abhorrent, so inhumane, that we obliterate the Divine image within us. Rabbi Meir disagrees, and suggests that even at our worst, even when we act more like animals than human beings, we remain children of God.
I don’t know what these sages would say in response to the tragedy in Wisconsin. I do know this. Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Meir argue about hundreds of issues great and small in the annals of rabbinic literature. And, in every case, the law follows Rabbi Yehuda—with one exception, this dispute. In this matter, Jewish law sides with Rabbi Meir. We are called God’s children; we remain God’s children, at all times and in all places.
The Torah teaches that human beings are created in the Divine image. And it warns us of the consequences of our failure to live by this creed. Darkness envelops us when we refuse to see God’s image in our fellowmen and women. Tragedy and misery ensue when God’s children stop caring for and about one another.
Each of us is a precious, irreplaceable gift. Each of us can help to repair our fractured world.
בנים אנחנו לאדני אלוהינו. We are all children of God. May we work together to polish our tarnished image. Amen.