Open Prayer, Gun-control, and the American dream

Tomorrow my daughter becomes a Bat-Mitzvah.

We are holding the service outdoors, here in Los Angeles, in one of the canyons. My daughter will chant Torah and lead us in prayer under a patch of oak trees, with sunshine filtering through the leaves and the breezes of early summer caressing our faces. We will be surrounded by our closest family and friends. It will be moving. It will be glorious. It will be a safe place to pray.

I have the feeling that the good people of Charleston, South Carolina, who chose to spend their Wednesday night studying in church, felt similarly. Maybe they weren’t under oak trees, but they had no reason to believe they were heading into a war zone. It was to be a time of study and prayer and community. It was to be a safe place to pray.

How do we connect to the Divine if we feel we have to constantly look over our shoulders in case danger were to come near? How do we drop our children off at elementary school if we believe we have to look critically at each passerby? How do we go to the movies, visit friends, simply walk down the street if we live in fear?

What happens to the American Dream?

Whether we are Democrat or Republican or Independent, Christian, Jewish or Muslim, White, Black, or Asian, or any combination of the above, don’t we all want to go to our places of worship and offer our hearts to our personal visions of God without fear? Don’t we all want our children to never have to see frightening images on the 6 o’clock news about another senseless death? Don’t we all want to have the freedom to speak freely, walk freely, love freely, without fear of the barrel of a gun? What does it take for us all to be on the same page? Wasn’t Sandy Hook enough? Isn’t Charleston enough? Does someone have to pull out a gun on a group of white republicans in order for EVERYONE to take notice?

In an article in the Washington Post, speaking of Obama’s comments after this most recent tragedy, it said, “There were two emotions evident in President Obama’s statement Thursday about the murders of nine people at a church in Charleston, S.C., the night before. The first was anger — at the fact that he was, once again, addressing the country in the wake of a mass shooting. The second was more along the lines of resignation — a head-shaking weariness about the almost-certain fact that this latest shooting would do little to move the needle on gun control legislation.”

But President Obama, I still remember, and I still believe in these words from your “Yes We Can” speech:

“… we will remember that there is something happening in America, that we are not as divided as our politics suggest, that we are one people, we are one nation. And, together, we will begin the next great chapter in the American story, with three words that will ring from coast to coast, from sea to shining sea: Yes, we can.”

Tikkun olam is the Jewish expression for the repairing of our world. In it’s original Kabbalist meaning, it is the releasing of bits of Divine light which are trapped in the negativity of the world by our performing mitzvot (meaning commandments, but often understood as good deeds) which set the light free. Releasing this light repairs the Universe and makes it whole again. It is time to release the light trapped inside this issue for once and for all and bring some much needed repair to our world.

It’s not too late. It’s never too late.