“Words of hate must cease… speak words of love, speak words of decency and of respect…When Americans hear that message loud and clear, we can begin to change the tenor of our country.” That was the message offered to our country’s political leaders by Rabbi Hazzan Jeffrey Myers of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, as his community begins laying to rest the individuals massacred during worship last Shabbat morning. Early this week we learned the names of the victims and details of their lives began to emerge. Good, caring people who contributed to their community and valued their Jewish identities. People whose family and friends prefer to remember them for how they lived their lives and inspired others, rather than for how they died.
Chayei Sarah, (the life of Sarah) this week’s Torah portion from Genesis, provides a similar lesson. Although the text focuses on Sarah’s death and burial, one midrash teaches that the portion begins with “Sarah lived to be 127 years… (Gen. 23:1) because Sarah’s years were filled with life. We are not told about the cause of Sarah’s death, because how she lived is more important than how she died. As we learn more about the lives of the victims of the worst anti-Semitic attack in the history of the United States, may we too be inspired by how they lived their lives.
Zichronam liv’rachah, may their memories be for blessing.
Rabbi Sandra M. Bellush