This morning in Pittsburgh, people entered the Tree of Life synagogue to hear Parshat Vayera… The portion in which Abraham teaches us to welcome the stranger… The Torah portion in which Abraham is prepared to sacrifice his son, and an angel of God STOPS him.
This morning’s Torah tells us life above all. No murder. No sacrificing. Break all the rules, every rule, in order to save a life, even if the “voices” you hear tell you to do otherwise. And it teaches us to welcome, feed, and protect the “other.” How tragic, that the people who were at the Tree of Life community to hear this text, and to share in the joy of new life with a bris, were surprised by a shooter while praying. Several are dead.
There is a new tone in the air of this country and around the world. We can’t deny it or ignore it. Hate crime is on the rise. Racism, anti-semitism, sexism, homophobia is now more “acceptable” than it once was. And we all know why.
How many mainstream candidates must we have who refuse to separate completely from those with ties to organizations that are openly racist? How many try to explain away violent instincts? How many rallies can we have where “body-slamming” someone is applauded? And how many young people, by watching bullies and “grabbers” reach the highest levels of government, are taught that their own racist, sexist and violent tendencies are okay? Today’s shooter spoke on social media against HIAS, the Jewish organization that aids refugees. He is anti-Jewish, anti-immigrant, anti-stranger.
And as I write, I just heard on CNN from our president, that it would have been different if there had been weapons inside the synagogue. “The results could have been so much better,” he said. That’s his answer… Guns in our houses of worship. He also spoke about how hard these moments are for him. I’m sure he’s having a bad day, but not bad enough to cancel today’s rally.
After 9/11, President Bush had the decency to say, “When we think of Islam we think of a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world. Billions of people find comfort and solace and peace. And that’s made brothers and sisters out of every race—out of every race.” He helped us remember the humanity of each other. I am grateful to him for that. That’s Presidential. And proof that my feelings are not about politics. This is about morality. This is about human rights. This is about being who we are without fear. This is about the basic decency and empathy we used to expect from our elected officials.
And so, with just a few days before the midterms, I beg you, all of you, Jews, and Christians, Republicans and Democrats… vote for peace. Vote for understanding. Vote for gun control. This is our moment to take our country back and make it just one step safer for all of us… All faiths. All genders. All colors. All people.
We are all so tired of being afraid. But it isn’t too late. If you feel the pain I feel today, stand up. Let’s use these last ounces of strength to say, no more. March. Call. Write. Pray.
And above all, vote for peace.