My D’var Torah from this evening:
A poem by Israeli poet, Yehuda Amichai,
The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters
and the diameter of its effective range about seven meters,
with four dead and eleven wounded.
And around these, in a larger circle
of pain and time, two hospitals are scattered
and one graveyard. But the young woman
who was buried in the city she came from,
at a distance of more than a hundred kilometers,
enlarges the circle considerably,
and the solitary man mourning her death
at the distant shores of a country far across the sea
includes the entire world in the circle.
And I won’t even mention the crying of orphans
that reaches up to the throne of God and
beyond, making a circle with no end and no God
It’s been a challenging week in the world. A week full of tears. Full of fear. Full of the unknown. A week in which 2 young men brought a city of millions to a standstill, leaving families in mourning, individuals in pain, and a country stunned. A week in which those 2 young men marred the celebration of an annual event that’s about community, about people coming together, about camaraderie, about mutual support, about personal accomplishment, and pushing one’s self to go further—instead bringing hatred and violence. A week in which, just a few hours from here, a plant explosion brought even more tragedy to our collective conscience.
This has been a week for which I have no words, and yet for which silence doesn’t seem to suffice either.
A week in which, the world felt smaller. Drawn together through sympathy and through empathy. Drawn together around scattered computers and televisions and smart phones—hanging on to the bits of news as they came in, and sharing in a diverse chorus of prayers for the well being of all who have suffered from the events of this week.
And a week in which on the Jewish calendar and the Israeli calendar, we marked with sadness Yom Hazikaron—the Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers of Israel and victims of terror, before turning around and celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut—Israel’s Independence Day. Perhaps we can learn from Israel’s model of being able to turn from the grim sadness that is palpable throughout the country on Yom Hazikaron, and so quickly move to joyous celebration, during which the festivities pour into the streets and you can taste the elation in the air. A model of mourning and then moving on to life. But I’m not sure that we’re ready for that yet. At least I’m not ready for that yet
And this is the week in which we read 2 Torah portions that are connected to each other, but yet which seem to have little in common. Acharei Mot contains rules that are given after the death of Aaron’s two sons—laws about Yom Kippur, sacrifice, and forbidden acts of intimacy. Kedoshim on the other hand contains the holiness code—the instructions we are given in order to be holy—the guidelines for how we should behave as human beings—the blueprint for establishing a community and a culture based on justice and right. A connection has been made between these 2 portions, though, not by the content but by the titles. A hidden piece of truth that is so fitting this week: Acharei Mot…kedoshim: After death, holiness. After we experience death, the potential still exists for holiness. When we have suffered, it hurts. We hurt. And yet, we are reminded that after darkness, there is light. Even during the darkness, there is help.
This has been a week which is full of hope. A week in which as people came together, they reached out their hands to one another. They offered courage. They offered what they could. A week in which Mr Roger’s now famous quote was shared again and again, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” And throughout this week there have been so many signs that such wisdom is true.
Yes, this is a week in which we have seen both acharei mot and kedoshim. As we continue to confront the reality of this week’s news, continue to learn more about what happened, hope to see the end of this chapter, we must continue to bring more of that holiness—to ourselves, to our neighbors, to the world.
I’d like to end with a prayer, composed by Rabbi Joe Black:
A Prayer in the Aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing
Our God who dwells in the highest heights and in the souls of our feet:
We find You in the passion of those who delight in testing and celebrating the power of their bodies:
· The runners who push themselves to find new challenges in the rhythm of the road and the camaraderie of the race;
· The doctors, medics, police, fire fighters and bystanders whose dedication to humanity drives them to run into the fray – towards the bruised and bloodied bodies in the streets.
On this day of destruction, we need to remember that the race is not for the swift[i]; there is no finish line for those who seek a better world.
Neither bombs, nor blood, not death, nor destruction can deter us from running, O God.
We run to You.
We run towards a vision of perfection that is always in our sights.
We run determined to never allow hatred to obscure Your presence.
We run to build a better world.
Be with those who have lost loved ones on this tragic day.
Send comfort and healing to the injured and the maimed.
Heal them – heal us all – body and soul – as we strive to find You.
Give us hope.
Help us to use our arms, our legs, our breath, our determination to unite in a common purpose.
In our grief may we find the strength to keep on running.
As Jordana Horn wrote this week, “Goodness itself is a marathon.” Let us all push ourselves to bring more goodness, more holiness, into this broken world. And with the prayer in our hearts that we, indeed, run towards a better tomorrow, a time where there is more holiness for ourselves and throughout the world, let us rise together for the prayer with which we commit ourselves to embracing that dream and towards building our future. The Aleinu can be found on page 283.