a priest's musings on the journey

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Rabbi Michael Rothbaum of the Jewish Peace Fellowships Reflects on the VT Tragedy

A Special Message from the JPF by Rabbi Michael Rothbaum, co-chair

And it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.

This killing is the first recorded murder in Scripture. And from that day to this one, when we mark the murders of 32 innocents in Virginia , we still can't understand. What is the appropriate response? What can we say that does not wither under the burning of 32 souls who met in pursuit of knowledge and wisdom, only to be torn apart in violence.

They were in the field, Abel and his brother Cain. It was the openness, the vulnerable expanse of the field - away from the watchful eye of Adam and Eve, Mom and Dad - that allowed Cain the space to take his brother's life. To go out, to go forth, is dangerous. It is in the going forth that we make our mark in this world. It is also where we take the greatest risk.

A college campus is an open field, a wide pasture. When so many come together from so far, the potential rewards are great, and the potential tragedy unthinkable.

But, of course, the whole world is like this, really. Every time we enter a shop, ride a bus, meet a stranger or even, sometimes, a friend, we find ourselves in an open field. Unsure of the beauty - or the danger - that may lie just beyond the horizon. We recall, as well, the horrific reality that in Iraq , the death of 32 people in one day is wholly unremarkable?

What, then, can be done? To come together to live and learn means that tomorrow may bring boundless love, an unexpected exaltation of the heart, an exhilarating discovery - or we may discover that there is no tomorrow.

This week, we learned yet again that we do not know how many tomorrows we are to be allotted. This is a frightening realization. Many will use that fear in the coming days to rouse anger, suspicion, hate - to fence off the pasture, to close the gate to the heart, to secure the perimeter around their souls. In doing so, they will obscure the beauty of G-d and the power G-d has given us.

Let us show the world another way. Our scripture tells us that G-d created this world with speech. "Let there be light," G-d said. And there was light. And so on, until each element of creation of creation is stamped with the mark of divine light. Every part of creation. Even Cain. And his descendants.

Cain, befitting the cliché of the killer, was a loner. Separation and solitude set the breeding ground for despair and rage and death. The antidote is within us. We are given powerful tools to work the field. Intellect. Compassion. Hands to reach out to those next to us. All the love that our hearts can hold. Given the finite time granted to us, let us use these powers to reach out to those we love, to create anew the pasture we want to call home, to affirm the Divine in ALL those around us - even those who we might just as soon avoid. The power is within each of us to reach out to the gloomy, the sullen, the dejected- to reach out a hand and invite him to tend the field together, and bring in the harvest for all the community to share.

May we face these days of despair with a resolve to bring uplift, to restore the spark of the divine in even the darkest of corners, to cultivate a pasture of holiness and wholeness.

In the Talmud, a story is told of R. Yeshevav and his disciples. Faced with the threat of annihilation by the Romans, his disciples huddled close, and asked, "Our master, what will become of us?" R. Yeshevav replied, "Strengthen one another. Love peace and justice. There may be hope."

May G-d grant us the strength to cultivate that hope. Soon. In our days.

More at Jewish Peace Fellowship.
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 6:08 PM


Good essay and link!
Blogger Jane R, at 6:43 PM  

Add a comment