Editor's note: The following was presented during a memorial service last Saturday at Beth Shalom Synagogue to remember victims of the recent shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh
We live in a turbulent, troubled, and tumultuous time. In this connection, I am reminded of a poem by William Butler Yeats that begins:
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre,
The falcon cannot hear the falconer,
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”
How tragic that a lone gunman, armed with an AK15 assault rifle and three pistols caused a massacre in Pittsburgh, killing 11 Jews, injuring several others in a sacred place, the Tree of Life synagogue on the holiest day of the week, the Sabbath.
Unfortunately, anti-Semitism continues to rear its ugly head in "the land of the free and the home of the brave," in an America that, historically, sees itself as a "city on a hill," a "beacon of light" in a dark world. How very sad that this beacon of light is now extinguished.
In times like this, one is tempted to lose faith in a God who allows such things to happen. However, Jews believe that God, Adonai, is a transcendent mystery, that is, we can only stammer and stutter in speaking of Adonai whose ways are, most certainly, not our ways. We, humans, must put our HOPE in Yahweh who is near His chosen people when they need help to sort out the terrible things that happen in this world.
In short, it’s not dangerous to hang on by a mere thread, if Adonai is on the other side holding fast to that thread.
When I was growing up in Bayonne, New Jersey, which is about three miles from the former World Trade Center, the elderly, like my grandmother, put a flower between the pages of her Bible. My grandmother did so as a remembrance of a special event or a death.
We might want to put a flower of hope between the pages of our scriptures in honor of those killed or wounded in Pittsburgh.
As John Henry Newman, one of the four greatest prose writers of the 19th century said, “We live and die like the leaves. But there is One who notices the fragrance of every one of them and places them between the pages of His great Book." Amen.