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236 Kane Street / Brooklyn, NY 11231 / 718 875-1550

Las Vegas

A message from Rabbi Weintraub

It’s a great, and very brief conversation, told in Exodus 14:13-16. Pharaoh, his chariots and his horses are charging behind them. The raging sea is before them. The Israelites, in panic, scream at Moshe to take them back to Egypt. Moshe shouts “Do not fear, Stand up!” Then, with noble intentions, and perhaps knowing that he is the world’s most effective Ba’al Tefilah, Master of Prayer, Moshe turns his gaze towards Heaven and declares “See the salvation that HaShem, that G-d will perform for you today… HaShem shall do battle for you!.”

Then G-d lets him have it:
“Mah Titz’ak Ei’lai? Why do you cry out to Me? Speak to the children of Israel and let them journey forth….lift up your hand and stretch your arm over the sea and split it! “
Rashi comments: “The Holy One Blessed be He, told Moshe, ”Lo Eit Atta L’ha’arich Bit’filah. This is not the time for lengthy prayer. Israel is in distress. Get going!”

Ours is an active faith. We partner with G-d to redeem the broken world around us, even at times when evil is so shocking that it can incapacitate us. It is important at these times to pray. We stop and send forth strength to the injured, the bereaved families, the rescuers. But we also need to act. As G-d told Moshe, “Ha’reim et matcha! Pick up your staff!” Do something! We recognize that the Tikkun, the repair is significantly in ours hands, and we move forward.

It’s important not to fall into conventional or clichéd language, no matter how soothing. Avoid calling Las Vegas a “tragedy”. Las Vegas was a crime, and it was committed by a deliberate and sentient individual, abetted by powerful commercial interests, political lobbies and cowering Senators and Congresspeople who place greed, careerism, and a wanton distortion of “individual rights” over reverence for human life. So, even as the dead lie before their shattered families in Las Vegas, Congress will consider the SHARE Act, which will allow purchases of gun silencers on the internet or at gun shows to avoid background checks.

In our epidemic of gun violence, the moral, the political, the cultural, and the economic meet. It is time to mobilize massively against the gun lobby. There are many places one can start here, such as the Brady Campaign to end gun violence. In faith communities especially, we need to take the discussion deeper and bring our teachings into the greater society. Our country is at a dangerous point where murder, individual and mass, has become common and relentlessly reported, so we are losing our sense of horror. The American fascination with, and glorification of firearms is very old, and it is celebrated and exploited in films, toys, commercials, games, amusement parks, and more. It is time to meet this trend with a counter movement, generously funded, based in churches, synagogues, mosques, community agencies, political clubs, youth groups, etc., and committed to teaching broadly the sanctity of human life and the ethics and strategies of nonviolence.

Yizkor Elohim kol Ei’leh She’nir’tz’chu
May G-d recall with love all those who were slaughtered. May their loved ones find comfort, and ways to continue their lives with purpose. While there is no justice in the murder of these innocents, may we honor their memory by mobilizing to prevent the loss of others, and to bring our misguided country to compassion and nonviolence.

Amen.

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