I’m angry. I am so angry. And I’ve had it.
Shabbat is one of my favorite times of the week. Sometimes, I am teaching or leading some sort of service. Sometimes, as today, I can have a leisurely day. Avoiding the rain in NYC, I was enjoying my favorite kind of Shabbat. Not moving too fast. Drinking coffee. Reading the papers and magazines that built up from the week. And watching my favorite Saturday news shows. The greatest moment of conflict was sparring with my kitties over my bagel and herring.
What I had not planned on doing this morning was texting friends in Pittsburgh to see if they were alive, to see if their families were alive.
It was a great Shabbat morning until I learned that a man walked into the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh with an automatic weapon. And if it ruined my morning, sitting in my pjs in the comfort of my home, I can only imagine what those in the synagogue felt. What could it be like to be chanting the Sh’ma or be hearing Torah when someone storms in with a rifle? What could it be like to celebrate your son’s bris, the ritual circumcision and naming on a Jewish boy on his eighth day of life, and have your joy smashed by the sound of gunfire, fearing he might not live to be nine days old? It is something that I hope we never know.
The President decried the violence and said that it would have been different if the synagogue had an armed guard. He said that the shooting had “little to do” with the gun laws. “If they had protection inside the results would have been far better,” the president said. “Maybe it could have been a very much different situation.” He said that stronger death penalties would stop this. Pennsylvania does have the death penalty and there is a federal death penalty. I guess that was not enough for this shooter.
I’ve notice that our pro-gun politicians never say it is the guns. According to them, it’s not the guns that kill people. It’s not the bullets that are propelled by the guns. It’s either that the shooters are mentally ill, or anti-Semitic or something else. But never the guns. However, if you don’t have an automative weapon, you cannot kill anyone with bullets. Sure, there are other weapons. But there is nothing like an automatic weapon to cause maximum death and mayhem. There is no other purpose.
I know there are those who think that teachers should be armed as a way to counteract the murdering of children in school. Maybe we should arm clergy. Let’s think about how that might work. I can imagine being on the bimah when someone comes in who is disturbed. Do they have a gun? Maybe? Off I go, Rabbi Rambo, protecting my flock. I could pull my weapon out from under my robe and fly off the bimah. Would I get to him before he gets to me? (I say “he” because this kind of violence is usually done by men.) How many people in the congregation would pull out their guns? Would bullets fly in every direction? Would I know who the “good guy with the gun” is? When the smoke cleared, would we still have a minyan?
Or, we can have an alternative reality. If we don’t have guns, no one can kill someone with one.
NO GUNS = NO GUN DEATHS
Our tradition tells us:
Lo yisa goy el goy cherev.
Lo yil’medu od milchamah.
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation.
Neither shall they learn war any more.
Maybe if we stop learning how to shoot guns, people will stop dying. I would love to hear a politician talk about that.
On Shabbat, when we return the Torah to the ark, we sing:
It (Torah) is a Tree of Life to those who hold fast
and all of its supporters are happy.
Today, that happiness was shattered at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.