Yesterday, traveling beneath New York City on the subway lines, I found myself surveying every person around me.
Had they heard? Did they know? Did they care? Could I trust them? Should I trust them?
Are they friends, or are they foes? Would they hate me for my Jewish faith? Would they stand by if someone tried to hurt me? Would they protest my death while watching it? Would they send thoughts and prayers?
Would they save me?
When something as tremendously horrifying as the murders in Pittsburgh happens, you’re forced to reconsider everything and everyone around you.
If I called out “who here loves all people?” how many hands would raise, confident and proud?
If I called out “who here loves the Jewish people?” how many hands would raise?
Would my words echo?
Worse – would my words be swallowed by a silence deeper than I could bear?
I’ve been coddled by this belief that this couldn’t happen here, not in America, not in a safe town like Pittsburgh, not here.
It happened here.
I watched, bewildered, as so many found their words so quickly, almost as the news was being spread, simultaneously were the answers, the blame, the hate.
I felt bowled over, pushed against a wall, as a stream of answers were being pushed my way –
“This is why!”
There is no why.
Is there a why?
If there is a why, then all I’ve ever been taught is a lie.
We always search for the why, but what I’ve learned is that there never is an answer to the why, and that is what makes us human.
Knowing there are no answers.
Not trying to find the answers.
How can we even try?
How can we organize pain as a question and an answer?
How can we possibly give an answer?
For me, there are no answers – there is only disbelief, only heartbreak, only wishes from so deep inside that it won’t ever happen again.
But there are questions, endless questions, for everyone, from G-d, to the smallest children on the street.
G-d, why do you allow evil in this world? How much light can be born from hate?
Child, how can we change this world for you? How can we purify it enough so that you don’t collapse from the pollution of our pain?
As I hear parents beg for help – “how do we speak to our children?” I wonder if the children need to be spoken to.
Children deserve to be coddled and protected from our world’s most awful truths, but more than that, children know the truth already.
How do we speak to our children?
Perhaps, rather than pulling them to grow up into our chaotic world, allow us to learn from them. Look into their eyes and see the innocence there – remember, remember what it means to be a child, to not know that such pain exists, to not expect it of the world around us, to not grasp for the answers but to allow ourselves to sit down and cry. To cry, ceaselessly and without shame, at the utter unfairness of it.
And then to pick ourselves back up, to make friends with those around us, to make the world simple again – love leads to love.
I’m not a parent, and in moments like these I am grateful that the only eyes I have to meet are mine in the mirror. I don’t have to crouch down to look into a heartbroken face, a child shattered by what they’ve overheard, having the moment in which their world goes from perfection to fractured.
And maybe I’m all wrong. Maybe nothing about this is simple. Maybe nothing about this is simply about that fact that 11 worlds have just been completely shattered because of their Jewish faith. Maybe it’s not just about the fact that there are people out there who hate me for my faith and will stop at nothing to destroy. Maybe this is about politics, or guns, or protests and rallies. I don’t know. That’s the truth.
And that is why I hesitated to write words at all.
What use are words?
I’m no political scientist, or social commentator.
Maybe one day, I’ll add those qualifications to my resume, but for now, I am just one voice.
One voice, who grasps for words every time I feel the earth shake beneath my feet.
These are my words, and I’m sharing them with you in a desperate moment of trying to connect, to find a place we can meet, in a place that we can throw up our hands, cry out at the unfairness of it, and say, maybe, we just don’t know.
Photo by Jarl Schmidt on Unsplash
I care. I admire the Jewish faith. I would stand up for you; and I believe there is strength in unity, if we would all just be courageous and stand together against the hate. Peace be with you.
Wow, this is so thoughtful and I thank you for it from the bottom of my heart!
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I’m a Pittsburgher and this article is really meaningful and honest. This week has been one of the longest weeks! The whole neighborhood was in mourning! I’ve attended some of the funerals and vigils. I went outside of Tree of Life and davened and sang. One thing I took from this besides the heartbreak is that people can be so kind! The outpouring of comfort is incredible. Everyone is just desperately trying to find their way to help. I totally agree with you that sometimes all we need to do is cry and sometimes there are no words and there can’t be. I’ve never seen my highschool so quiet until when we walked back from a funeral each in our own sorrow that has no words. Thanks for expressing what we are feeling in such a beautiful way!
Wow, please accept my virtual hug. I can’t imagine what your community is going through right now. I am very happy to know that my words have brought even a small measure of comfort though, rather than G-d forbid, the opposite. Feel free to reach out whenever you are looking for a listening ear!