It’s like a tourist itinerary of the damned El Paso, Dayton– columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Orlando, Las Vegas, parkland. Pittsburgh, Poway. And now El Paso and Dayton
This happens with such frequency in no other nation. And this week new mourners were created twice in one day.. A new ritual is being created in America. Upon entering a crowded synagogue or mall we look for the nearest exit
There are a combination of reasons. Lax gun laws is one of them. And our conservative movement has spoken loudly and clearly about the need to ban assault weapons and strengthen background checks.
This week’s portion repeats the story of how the Israelites sent spies into the land. We know the story. The people had no faith. They had seen the wonders of god. They had witnessed god’s miracles in Egypt and at the reed sea. They had heard god’s voice at Sinai. Yet they had no faith that they could conquer the land. And so god decreed that this generation was not ready for prime time. They would die in the wilderness and a new generation would enter the promised land.
There is a tradition that the day of god’s decree was the 9th day of av; today’s date and a day that would be eternally a day of sadness for our people. It was the day that both holy temples were destroyed.
Some of the rabbis we often speak of were witnesses to the destruction of the 2nd temple. The rabbis asked, why was the second temple destroyed by the romans? They understood that the destruction of the first temple was the result of the idolatrous practices of the people. But they felt the people in their generation were faithful to the covenant. They were believers. The sin of idolatry had vanished from the land
The answer they gave was Sinat Hinam, baseless hatred. They realized early “that a house divided cannot stand” rather than finding scapegoats, the sages looked into their own failings. And they asked why was there so much hatred between Jews.
What the Rabbis suggest is affirmed by historians. Josephus records that even as the romans marched to besiege Jerusalem, one group burned the granary of another.
We need to ask the same question today. Where is the hatred coming from that is eroding the soul of our country? Guns kill….Bombs kill…..But hate also kills words can be weapons. And when the words of hate come from high places we as Americans have to look inward. . It is not enough to speak of assault weapons. We need to guard against assault words. Gun control is not enough. A colleague, Michael Gold, speaks of the need for hate control. There is hate coming from groups of white supremacists who spread their disease online corrupting young and vulnerable boys and girls, men and women. There is hatred being directed at immigrants . There is hatred aimed at black and brown people. And there is hatred on college campuses directed at Israel and Jews
How do we stop the hatred? Perhaps we can ask the owners of social networks to be more vigilant of what is viewed on the social networks. That is a start. But first we must fight the hatred in our own hearts. We must remind ourselves and our children and grandchildren of the teaching of Rabbi Akiva (sing) love your neighbor as yourself
El Paso and Dayton grieve today. We can pray for comfort and healing. But thoughts and prayers are never enough. Even as we enter the sad fast of tisha b’av, let us try to fight hatred wherever it may dwell, and let us begin with searching our own hearts.