Gun violence on both coasts this past weekend offers a very sad reminder that our society is not living up to the ideals of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Although promised in the Declaration of Independence, these “unalienable rights” are not being protected by our government.
In California, a 6-year-old boy, a 13-year-old girl and a man in his 20’s were killed by a gunman at an outdoor food festival. In Miami, a 69-year-old man waiting for worship services to begin was shot outside a synagogue. Gun violence and anti-Semitism coming together is horrendous. Yet, this is not the first time, nor will it likely be the last, that bias and hatred lead to evil acts.
We must face the harsh truth of the state of our nation, if we are to force our elected representatives to make laws that will keep us safe. When Torah presents ugly truths about the ancient Israelites, we don’t turn away. Instead, we see the harsh realities of ancient biblical society, and in the process we learn that we must act differently today.
This week, as we read the last portions of Numbers, Matot-Masei, the Israelites have engaged in a bloody war with the Midianites. Viewed through the lens of our modern sensibilities, the Israelites’ actions are less than honorable. Yet, rather than turn away from the text, we still look for its lessons, including the need to take responsibility for what we say and do.
Let’s not turn away from what we see in our own world that disturbs us. Difficult though it may be, let’s face the truth, and then engage in the work of repair and social justice necessary to make things right.
Rabbi Sandra Bellush