tragedy

Powerless.

Powerless.

That is how I feel as I whisper psalms.
Hands tied behind my back,
As I beg G-d to chill, the, freak, out.
Exhausted.
That is how I feel in my every bone,
Heavy with the weight of the tears
That refuse to come out.
I’m aching; aching; aching.
My stomach is in knots,
Where will the next fracture in our earth occur?
Who will be the next to break?
How do we live in a world so filled to the brim with pain?
I pray; I pray; I pray.
17/52.

They Won’t Win

Today, there are tears. There is desperation, fear, frustration.
How many times can this happen to us?
Over the last couple of days, I was reading the book Man’s Search For Meaning. Viktor Frankl’s famous book in which he details his theories, further developed by his horrific experience in the Holocaust; his key focus is that when one believes their suffering has meaning, they can survive it. It’s when one feels hopeless, when one sees no meaning in their pain, that they collapse in the grief and everything ends.
This theory resonates deeply with the teachings of Chassidus, a school of thought, a way of life, that has been intertwined in mine forever. What I’ve learned, and believe so deeply, is that every single thing has meaning and purpose – even a leaf falling from a tree. How much more so, the greatest triumphs and tragedies in our life.
Yet, as I look at the images of Lori Kaye, the heroic woman who lost her life, it seems so cruel to even think these words. What kind of meaning can be found in the loss of a woman so full of life? What kind of purpose is there in the death of a mother and wife, a vibrant community member, a living, breathing human being?
I feel helpless in the wake of tragedy. My words feel useless, my conversations about nothing feel wasteful and my conversations about tragedy leave me aching. I’m tired, and I’m aching to be proactive.
What can we do?
As I opened my prayer book this morning, I read the very first words I read every morning “I hereby take upon myself [the mitzvah] “love your fellow as yourself.”
After taking every practical measure we can take to put our physical defenses up against inevitable hate and violence, what else can we do?
We can only love.
How often do we judge, tear down, blame, look down upon others for even the smallest of actions? How quickly do we assume we know someone’s entire self when we observe them for only a tiny part of their entire life?
We mutter under our breaths, we avoid people in supermarket aisles, we whine when we have to spend time with some.
We scroll through our social media feeds, mocking and laughing, tearing people apart when they can’t even defend themselves – perhaps that is worst of all.
Can we commit to perfection?
I think not.
For me to stand here, on this mournful day, and promise I’ll never think ill of another person based on large or small reasons is laughable and impossible.
But can I try?
Can I work at it, each day, just a little?
Can I keep my eyes focused forward, can I raise my voice in protest when those around me slip into negativity? Can I try to see the slightest positivity in an otherwise poor scenario?
Yes.
I can try.
And I will.
Because that – that is all I can do.
And perhaps, all of our collective trying, will inspire more and more doing, because in numbers comes great hate, but in numbers could come great beauty, and light, and joy.
And G-d knows we can use all of it we can get.
May the soul of Lori Kaye be lifted to the highest heights, and may all those who are suffering today find meaning in their pain.
Not today, but one day.
But until we get there, let us do what we still have the power to do – add more love.
I’m angry that we live in a world in which hate still has so much power – but I also believe we underestimate the power of love.
It’s easy to hate. It’s often harder to love. The harder the task, the sweeter the results. Hate is cowardly, love is brave.
G-d is hearing from me today because as I sit and chat with my 2-year-old nephew, I don’t want to think about him having to grow up in a dark world.
G-d is hearing from me today because I don’t want to keep having conversations about how we can better secure our synagogue, our home, our events that are quite literally held to spread the light of Judaism.
G-d is hearing from me today because I don’t want to have to one day look my children in the eye, and somehow explain, and calm, and console the pain that comes from realizing the world is a scary place.
G-d is hearing from me today because a woman is being buried before she lived out her life, because she was forced to die, because she represented light, and she came face to face with evil, and it seems like evil keeps winning.
G-d is hearing from me today.
But I was put on this earth to give back to this world, and you bet I’m going to do my best to only give it light.
Throughout our history, they’ve come for us, they’ve hurt us, they took our loved ones, kicked us in the dirt, and laughed in our faces.
But you know who always won?
It was us.
Dirt streaked, tear-filled, weary and tattered, the Jewish nation has always come through the other side, raising a hand in victory.
And we’ll do it again.
Bearing our torches. Shining our light, try as they do to envelop us in darkness. We’ve got a spirit that can be broken and trodden upon, but it can’t be put out.
They’ve tried before.
But they don’t know what we know:
Evil will never claim victory, not in the end.

Is G-d Crying Too?

Dear G-d,

I’m trying to reach out. I’m trying to force past the stone wall that is inside my heart. I’m trying to reach my soul, the soul that has been weeping for days.
I’ve been weeping for days.
Just a few days ago, you took a soul from this earth, a loved soul, a soul that was accomplishing beautiful things.
I did not know him.
But his illness made an incredible impact on me.
G-d, I know you remember. For the weeks that he was sick, I was gaining strength in my spirituality. I was becoming a better person. I was more focused. I tried to think positively, something that does not come naturally to me. I tried things I’d never done before in Judaism. I started a small Chassidus study group with friends, something I’d wanted to do for a long time.
His illness, and the hope I felt that I could create some change, pushed me to do so many things. Good things. Things that felt right.
And I was so sure. Like so many, I was sure that I was making a difference. I felt the words I said in my siddur, in my tehillem, my actions, I felt them go straight to the sea of prayers filled with the prayers from everyone else. I saw the sea rising, turning the situation in our favor.
There was not a single doubt in my mind that he would pull through.
Because I trusted. I trusted you, G-d. I trusted that you would look upon your children, your precious, sweet children, and recognize what was happening. You’d see how something that is known for producing so much evil, the internet, had produced so much good. You’d see how thousands were committing to being more connected to their Judaism, people were taking steps forward, and in this process, G-d, people were falling in love with you.
For the first time in months.
For the first time in years.
For the first time, ever.
But then…you broke that trust.
You refused to allow us to witness a miracle.
I won’t speak for others.
I’ll speak only for myself.
But G-d, I have never, in my life, felt this type of anger towards you.
Perhaps it’s because I am lucky. I have never been faced with such a hidden revelation.
A human life is likened to an entire world, and I have never seen that so clearly. He was one man, one man that united an entire world, one man that is being mourned by strangers.
Wouldn’t it have been easy, G-d?
Aren’t you all-powerful?
Aren’t you the one who chooses which way our lives go?
Couldn’t you have given us this?
If our reality was different, G-d, I would not be angry.
The words in my siddur would not be tasting like sawdust.
Going the extra mile in my Judaism would not feel like a marathon.
Yet you chose the reality.
You chose this reality.
Yet…
If everything I have ever learned is true, G-d, I know you are weeping too.
I know the punches we throw mean nothing and everything to you at the same time.
I know that for each one of our hearts that break, your heart comes apart a little more.
I know that the pain we feel is your pain too.
And as I open my siddur, against my will, and as I pray to you and praise you, against my will, my soul bursts through. And I know that this is why my soul lives inside of me.
Because when doing anything for you is against my will, my soul has no choice in the matter. My soul clings to you, desires you, lives for you.
We don’t know the bigger plan, and that truth fills me with agonizing pain.
You know the bigger plan, yet something tells me that even with that knowledge, you are filled with agonizing pain as well.
You are covered in wounds from our hot tears. From the shards of our broken hearts.
Because as we cry, you gently hold us in your hands, ignoring your pain so that you can be there for ours.
When we drift off to sleep, that is when you weep, filled with a misery that can only come from the knowledge that to get us to the greatest good, you must put us through the greatest pain.
I am furious with you, G-d.
Yet I pity you.
And as I cry and search for the comforting embrace, I offer you my shoulder.
Because I know that this is not something anyone wanted. Not us. Not our souls.

Not even you.


Blog Post: 9/52

Feature Photo by Cherry Laithang on Unsplash

Remember this pain.

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Every time it happens, we pull together.
Everyone feels united in pain, in the shock we all felt when we heard. Social media is peppered with photos of the heroes, those who put aside everything, to save someone a person they didn’t know.
Today, we are together in grief.
Today, we pray together, we fall together, we pull each other up.
Tomorrow, the anger will begin to sneak back in.
The baseless hatred, the crushing words, the unnecessary bickering that has become our new normal.
Only when we are shocked into silence by terror are we able to stop talking and look at each other as human beings.
Why do we let this happen? Time and time again?
Our country will only continue to spiral into the terrifying mess it is quickly becoming, if we don’t decide to stop.
Put the swords down, lay down the weapons, and let’s face our common enemy together.

Just days into the Jewish new year, let us prove that we can recognize the human in each other before the tragedy has to strike.

The next time you feel like lashing out on a stranger on the internet, remember this pain, this grief, this connection you felt with your fellow human beings today.

Take something from this senseless act, and let it be a motivator for love, understanding, and courage in a time when acceptance is what we preach, yet rarely practice.

The world is trembling. Rather than ripping it apart with our words and hateful actions, let us tenderly fix each broken seam, and lovingly put it back together again.

Not all heroes wear capes, they say.

Take today, and become a hero.

 

Blog post: 4/52.

Dedicated to the memory of the 59 lost souls in Las Vegas, and all those who have needlessly lost their lives this year.