Unfortunately, our children will always remember this week.
On Tuesday evening, nearly 24 hours after the bombings, our Temple Beth Elohim community gathered for an evening of prayer. Many people came seeking comfort, healing, and connection and many lingered for quite some time after the service. We were all at a loss to make sense of Monday’s attack. At that time a few days ago, many parents were still beginning the process of speaking to their children about what happened. One parent shared a story with me as she began to cry. Her young child asked her, “Mom, how come someone set off a bomb if they only wanted to hurt one person?” Before she could answer, his innocent little face changed in realization. In that moment, she comforted her child as he began to understand, for the first time, that real evil exists in our world. As Reb Nachman of Bratslav once said, and as Cantor Sufrin led us in singing on Tuesday night, “Kol ha’olam kulo gesher tzar me’od. The entire world is a very narrow bridge.”
We were uplifted yesterday by the comforting words of President Obama, Governor Patrick, Mayor Menino and many of our beloved Boston clergy at an interfaith service in the South End. And we went to bed thankful for our police forces and the FBI who released clear photos of two suspects, hopeful that they would be apprehended soon. But, today we awoke to another unexpected reality. The suspects had caused further injury and one of them is still at large in our community. All around Boston, children, teens, adults, and parents have been spending this entire day “sheltered at home.” In other words, we have locked our doors and drawn our shades in an effort to shield ourselves from harm. Yes, I do feel safe at the moment, spending a rare weekday at home with my husband. But, with the TV channel glued to the news, it’s hard not to feel terribly sad, a bit sick, a little anxious and yes, fearful.
But, Reb Nachman’s teaching does not end there. He continues, “V’hayikar lo l’fached klal. The most important thing is not to be afraid.”
Yes, our children will always remember this week. But, it is our responsibility to remind them and help them not to be afraid. For, living in fear is not really “living.” I am also reminded of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s wisdom, “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Fear can be paralyzing and isolating. We can’t live in fear, not this week, not ever.
This week, we have received an outpouring of support from our brothers and sisters in Israel who understand the terror and fear we are experiencing. It gives me great comfort to think of their courage, their strength, and their perspective. We have heard stories from our Israeli friends who live in the town of Sderot. They live everyday knowing that they could be victim to rocket fire from Gaza. They take certain precautions and exercise as many security measures as they can. Yet, they try to live each day with a sense of normalcy and purpose.
Today on the Jewish calendar, we find ourselves right in the middle of the Omer period. Today is day 24. Traditionally, we count the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot. The weeks of the Omer are considered a period of mourning, days in history when tragedy befell the Jewish people. Observed traditionally, the Omer can evoke great feelings of sadness. But, I like to consider something in addition. These intermediate days between Passover and Shavuot are neither “here nor there,” a period in ritual theory that is called “the liminal.” We are experiencing the “in-between,” a time of great vulnerability and uncertainty. Yet, there is great hope in this act of counting the Omer. We count towards a better day, a day of revelation and greater clarity. We count so that we may reach a different destination.
I pray that we reach that destination soon. While we journey this narrow bridge, this time of uncertainty, may we not be afraid. May we feel secure in knowing that a better day will soon arrive. May we be comforted by the love and care that many people in our world have to offer us. For additional resources and voices from the Jewish community, visit our TBE Youth Programs website.
Ken y’hi ratzon. May this be God’s will.