I know that our hearts and souls continue to ache terribly for the 17 incredible students and teachers that were taken from us last week. For too many of us, these 17 students and teachers weren’t just victims of a horrific act of violence. They were loved ones. They were friends. They were teachers. We’ve all discovered just how small our Broward County community is as most of us know someone who was directly affected by this nightmare. We’re hurt. We’re scared. We’re angry. And, while we might not agree on all the technicalities, we’re united in our demand that schools must be places of learning not carnage.
It’s long past time that we, as a nation, not just engage in debates and discussions about assault rifles, background checks, age restrictions, bump stocks, the mental health crisis and so many other issues – it’s time that we actually make the changes that need to be made. In a day and age when we can’t carry dangerous items onto airplanes, we’re searched before we go into many arenas and concert halls and we can’t purchase Sudafed without our name being entered into a database monitored by law enforcement, it’s time that we stop hiding behind “civil liberties” when it comes to guns. And it’s time that those of us who don’t understand folks who own guns come to appreciate that most gun owners are responsible, law abiding citizens who must be part of the solution we so desperately seek. Changes have to be made. Compromises have to be reached. This will mean that no matter what side we’re on, the solution to this crisis won’t make us happy. It will, however, make our schools and other public places safer. The time is now.
Over the past week, prayer has been pushed aside as a solution. I get it, on the surface “Praying for Parkland” and the countless other places that have experienced gun violence sounds ridiculous. This being said, I’m praying for an end to gun violence. Let me explain why. In the Book of Psalms, it says: “All my limbs shall say ‘Who is like You, God?’” (Psalm 35:10) From this, we learn that for Jews, prayer is not just a spiritual exercise. It is a full body workout. There’s a reason we stand, bow and bend our knees during a service. This Jewish choreography is designed to remind us that by moving, by doing, by acting, we pray. The great Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel understood this. When he returned from Selma where he marched with Martin Luther King Jr, he was asked, “did you find much time to pray when you were in Selma?” Rabbi Heschel’s response: “I prayed with my feet.”
The Torah teaches us that we can’t stand idly by while our fellow’s blood is shed. (Leviticus 18:16) It’s time to live this teaching. I’m going to do so by praying with my feet – by getting up and actively pursuing change. I ask that you all join me. On Saturday morning, March 24th Ramat Shalom will be sending a bus up to March for Our Lives in Parkland which begins at 9:00am. If you’d like to reserve a seat on the bus, please contact Diane at 954-472-3600 or by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Of course you can also meet us in Parkland on March 24th. (I will share more details as we get closer to the event.) As we gather on that Shabbat morning, we’ll be surrounded by thousands of other people and, yes, together, we’ll take part in one amazing Shabbat morning prayer service using our feet.
Please continue to voice your concerns to our local, state and national leaders. Get involved in other organizations and programs that address the issue of gun violence. Support our kids – so many of whom have been an inspiration to us and the world! And stay informed.
Finally, remember that we’re all fragile right now. Be gentle with each other.