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When Shabbat is Needed More than Ever

08/07/2019 12:12:25 PM


Rabbi Ron Segal

Once again, heartache.
Once again, murderous domestic terrorism has wracked our country. 
Once again, hate-filled violence has resulted in unspeakable grief for countless innocents and families. 
Once again, the devastating number of lives lost and injuries suffered has been facilitated by the use of an assault style weapon and the absence of any sensible legislation aimed at curbing the epidemic of gun violence in our country.
A friend aptly commented this week, “it’s all too painful to process sometimes.” The sentiment is resonating powerfully; were one to allow it, the current tenor and state of affairs in our country could easily lead one to despair. Like many others I suspect, my heart is especially heavy this week, as the horrific events in El Paso and Dayton only add to what was already a list of serious issues demanding attention. Perhaps others are similarly confronting a constant barrage of thoughts, concerns, and messages that “pinball” from one critical topic to another: 

-    The harrowing gun statistics in America (the fact that we comprise 4% of the world’s population but own 45% of the world’s guns, that it only took 30 seconds for the AR-15 used in Dayton to mow down 9 and injure 27 innocent people, that lack of political will will likely end once again with no change); and
-    The power of hateful speech to foment and even incite violent behavior (the tragically prescient sermons and national statements in recent weeks warning of this reality, the existence of internet forums in which hate-mongers encourage and celebrate others’ acts of domestic terror, the growing societal acceptance of white nationalism and white supremacist ideologies that have spawned extremists responsible for 39 of the 50 mass murders in our country last year); and 
-    The continuing immoral treatment of asylum seekers at the border (e.g. at the detention center in El Paso, where I visited just last week, and where a community now mourns the tragic deaths of 22 people murdered by a racist extremist further infected by anti-immigrant rhetoric); and
-    A number of additional anxieties, concerns, and upsets weighing heavily on so many hearts at present, leaving us reeling and unsure where to turn first.

So, this Shabbat can’t come soon enough! For perhaps this Shabbat will afford us the ability -- even if only for a few moments – to stop and still our minds, the time needed to recharge our souls, replenish our spirits, refresh our energy, and refocus our determination to help achieve the justice and effect the change we hope to see in our world. An expression of Ahad Ha’am resonates with added meaning this week: “More than Israel has kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept Israel.” May this Shabbat keep us all…grounded, peaceful, and hopeful, and may we emerge renewed.

Wed, February 19 2020 24 Sh'vat 5780