Good morning all...
I normally do not post my sermons on my blog. As well, this is an expansion on the previous blog entry "These Are the Times that Try Men's Souls."
In the years that I have been privileged to be your rabbi, I have assiduously avoided writing specifically as an American. I am American. You know this. At the same time, to speak specifically from that viewpoint all the time would put a barrier between us. We do not want that.
This week, please bear with me as I speak from south of the 49th.
A couple of people have offered me condolences due to the horrific events in Boston. Perhaps, as an American, I feel those events differently from the rest of you. Thank you for your concern.
Rav Jen went to university outside Boston. We have been there several times together. We both love the city. An undisturbed hour, a good book, and a thermos of coffee under a willow tree in the Public Garden may be as close to Heaven as it is possible to come on this continent.
Still, I want to offer my condolences as well to all of you. After the attacks of September 11th, after the attacks in Bali, in Madrid, in London, and in Mumbai, and all of the failed attacks about which we never hear, I want to offer my condolences to you. Every one of us is a potential soft target. Every home, every synagogue, every office, every event at the ACC, and every subway car...each is impossible to secure. Organizers of this summer's races here in Toronto, as well as marathons in London, are looking at their security procedures. We have all been attacked. Looking both ways before crossing the street is no longer just about oncoming traffic. I offer my condolences to you in that if we thought it possible to walk blissfully through the chaos, we can cast that belief aside now, permanently. Our innocence is again shattered.
It is inappropriate to offer condolences without providing comfort. So I offer words of comfort. People ran towards those who needed help. First responders were there, and knew exactly what to do. Bostonians offered food, shelter, clothing, and a phone to complete strangers. People tore their own clothing to make tourniquets. Marathon runners finished their races, deliberately, and then rushed to donate blood. Beyond the city limits, the New York Yankees played the theme song of the Red Sox in Yankee Stadium. One tweet went to "anybody in Boston who is hosting people with nowhere to go...Sloshworks in Perth would love to buy you all pizza." Similar offers came from all around the world. Restaurants opened their doors to anyone who needed the company of other people. Mr. Rogers tells us to "look for the helpers." They were everywhere, in every form.
Two people destroyed a wonderful day in a wonderful city. Hundreds of people, a town, and a world stood up and said no. They said that our humanity is profoundly more than thugs can ever destroy. Comedian Patton Oswalt wrote on his facebook page a simple statement: "The good outnumber you." And we do.
There are all sorts of questions about how it is that our two parshiyot are connected to each other, such that they merit being a double when we have to double parshiyot. Other double parshiyot have clear thematic connections. This week, it seems less clear. I would like to suggest a connection. Ahrei Mot Kedoshim tihyu - After death, you shall be holy. When death occurs, we should behave in a way that is holy. We should respond with compassion. We should respond with caring. All of those throughout the world who have responded to this have done so. Death occurred, and people were holy.
There are other verses to the song "America the Beautiful." The lyrics of the last stanza are as follows: "o' beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years, thine alabaster cities gleam undimmed by human tears." We have seen the shining acts of humanity that make Boston gleam undimmed, despite the very real human tears. Those shining acts make every city gleam. Look for them. They are there. Do them. Make your own cities gleam. That is the holy response to what happened in Boston.