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IT MAKES YOU THINK  

This week I am scheduled to meet with a number of our Hebrew School students and their parents in our Sanctuary.  The purpose of our meeting is to talk about the ideas and the ideals that went into the design of our Sanctuary. We spend so much time in our Sanctuary without giving a thought to the specialness of this place.  The idea is that not every place in the world is equal.  Some places are more equal than other places.  Some places have embedded within them a unique energy and atmosphere.  I enjoy these meetings because it gives me an opportunity to show people how much symbolism can be packed into one space.  But as I read the latest reports of the massacre that took place in a Jerusalem synagogue, it makes me realize how much hatred motivates so many Muslims in our world.  The massacre in a Jerusalem synagogue comes upon the heels of still another gruesome beheading of an American by Isis.

Isis took a young American who did not come to the Middle East to fight, but to rather be a friend to anyone in need.  He was doing mitzvah work.  He was helping to distribute medical supplies to those who were in crisis and his great crime turned out to be that he was an American. They chopped off his head and presented it to the world as a piece of meat on a platter.  In Jerusalem two Palestinians armed with guns and meat cleavers burst into a synagogue screaming Allah Akbar and proceeded to shoot up and carve up Jews as they were praying, as if they were pieces of meat.

As I write these words I am looking at a picture of Palestinians holding guns and meat cleavers.  What are they doing?  They are celebrating the massacre in that Jerusalem synagogue.  They are handing out candy to children, because the massacre is for them a thing of beauty and joy.

Good people everywhere must be horrified, not only by the slaughter, but by the celebration.  The loss of human life, regardless of religion or ethnic background must never be celebrated.  Most of all, if the world is to have any chance at not destroying itself, we must teach our children that hatred is a disease that kills.  More correctly, every culture and religion must teach that hatred kills.

When I meet with our children and their parents in the Sanctuary this week, I must reach for the right words and set the correct tone.  Every house of worship must be a house of peace. Every religious leader must use his pulpit to convey to his congregation that life is sacred and precious.  Disagreements will always separate people.  Truth may travel different paths.  Therefore we must never impose our truth upon someone else's truth. At the same time if someone comes at us with a meat cleaver because we believe in a truth that is different from his truth, then we must learn that wishing away the meat cleaver and its wielder is both naive and dangerous.  We will have to defend ourselves and wait for the day when all truly believe that hatred is not the way.         

What happened this week makes me stop and say - "It makes you think."

On our ark can be found the words of the Prophet Hagai - Bamakom Hazeh Etain Shalom - in this place I shall give peace.  May it soon come to pass in our lifetime that the place we call our Sanctuary and that the places all around the world in which everyone else refers to as their sanctuaries, will always be respected as places of peace.

As the rescue workers in Jerusalem wipe the blood off the floor and the walls of that synagogue, let us remember that we have not yet learned how to live in peace.

Shalom, Rabbi Ira Rothstein