May 25, 2022

Our Power to Bring Good into the World

Robert Lichtman Chief Jewish Learning Officer

Today we are rocked… but sadly not shocked… by the murder of 19 children and two adults in Texas. Today is not the time for us to be consoled. Today is not the time for us to be comforted. Today is the time for the families of those children to be comforted and consoled. Today is the time to comfort the family in the Bronx as they bury an 11-year-old child, also a victim of gun violence.   

Tomorrow is the time when we will comfort and console the families of 22 more children who will die by gun violence today. Sunday is the day when we will comfort and console 22 other families whose children will be murdered with guns on Saturday. Because every single day in this country, 22 children die by gunfire.   

So, I am not calling for a moment of silence today. It’s the billions of moments of silence since the last catastrophe that have led to the tragedy we are confronting today. 

Rather, today’s the day to be provoked to act. 

I want to tell you a story from our Torah. It is the story of the Akedah, The Binding of Isaac. God spoke to Abraham and said to him, “Take your child, your only child, the child you love, and offer him to me as a sacrifice in the place that I will show you.” Abraham complied with God’s command and bound Isaac upon an altar. As Abraham’s knife- wielding hand was about to come down to sacrifice his son, an angel cried out, “Abraham Abraham! Stop. Do not go through with this.” And Abraham stopped. 

A question can be asked: If it was on the authority of no less than God that Abraham undertook this act, why did God not intervene to stop him? Why did God send an angel to hold back Abraham’s hand?  

I want to share a perspective that I have not heard elsewhere which I hope will be meaningful to you. Through this example, God is saying to Abraham, and to all of us, “When you see evil, do not wait for me to tell you what to do. When you see evil, confront it.” 

In our Federation work, we often invoke the phrase that people are created b’tzelem Elokim, in the image of God. That means that each one of us is created in the image of God. And just as God has the power to discern between good and evil, we have that same power. Just as God has the power to confront and eliminate evil, we have that same power. We share a mission to smother evil. While each one of us works toward finding meaningful ways to bring about real, positive change…

while families in Texas are identifying their murdered children through their DNA…

while Ukrainian refugees struggle to build new lives…

while we commemorate the second anniversary of the murder of George Floyd and the murder of innocent shoppers in Buffalo…

Let us recognize that we have the power to bring more good into the world by caring for those in need and building stronger community.  

This is what we do as a Federation.  

We’ll continue to do it tomorrow, and for all the tomorrows to come.