Rabbi’s Corner: On the Shooting in Illinois

Thank you for the beautiful and warm welcome I received my first Shabbat this past week. I was still “floating on air” from the joyful celebratory reception when I heard the heartbreaking news about the shooting in Highland Park, Illinois on the 4th of July.

As many of you know, two weeks after I signed on to become your Senior Rabbi here at TBS, the mass shooting took place at Tops Supermarket in Buffalo, just around the corner from my synagogue. It affected my congregation and community deeply. That same week, there were three additional mass shootings in the US, one right here in Laguna Woods.

Eleven years ago, I served as Senior Rabbi for a now-closed congregation in Highland Park. So many of my friends, colleagues and people I know were at the parade this past Monday. So many people I know were witness to the mayhem and horror. I am heartbroken.

Highland Park, Il and Buffalo, NY may seem so distant and remote from us here in Orange County. Yet Jewish tradition teaches that no matter where we are, we “do not remain indifferent.” When our neighbors are bleeding, when people are being harmed, we need to act. We cannot stand idly by.” The Torah states: “Lo tachmod al dam re’echa – do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.” (Lev. 19:16) My late father, Rabbi Richard J. Sobel, taught me that the rabbis of old added to this and said: “Once your eye has seen something and your ears have heard something, you can no longer pretend to be uninvolved or unaffected, you are now obligated to act, to work for positive change in our world.”

When will the violence, hatred and bloodshed end?

Today we mourn, grieve and cry. We offer comfort and consolation to those in Highland Park. Tonight we will pray together as a community. However, “prayers and words” will not change what is taking place in our society. “Prayers and tears” will not end the scourge of racism, antisemitism, evil and gun violence. When the time has come to move forward, we will do so as a united community when we work together to end hatred and gun violence. Any shooting is one shooting too many. Any death by violence is one death too many. It will take all of us working together to make a difference.

When Evil Darkens Our World
(Chaim Stern, Mishkan Hanefesh for Yom Kippur, pg. 506, CCAR Press, ed. Rabbi Hara Person, NY 2015).

When evil darkens our world, let us be the bearers of light,
When fists are clenched in self-righteous rage, let our hands be open
For the sake of peace.
When injustice slams doors on the ill, the poor, the old, and the stranger,
Let us pry the doors open.

Where shelter is lacking, let us be builders.
Where food and clothing are needed, let us be providers.
Where knowledge is denied, let us be champions of learning.

When dissent is stifled, let our voices speak truth to power.
When the earth and its creatures are threatened, let us be their guardians.
When bias, greed, and bigotry erode our country’s values,
Let us proclaim liberty throughout the land. (Lev 25:10)

In the places where no one acts like a human being,
Let us bring courage;
Let us bring compassion;
Let us bring humanity.

Oseh shalom bimromav, hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu, v’al kol yoshvei teveil, v’nomar, Amen
May the one brings peace from the High heavens, bring peace, comfort and strength to us, to all who are grieving and mourning and to everyone throughout the world as we say together, Amen.


Rabbi Sharon L. Sobel
Senior Rabbi, Temple Beth Sholom

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