Mar 21 2019 Dvar Torah

Rabbi Helen Cohn

“Why we cry”

The dreadful massacre in New Zealand and our response is a reminder of how interconnected we are. Jewish communities here and around the country have responded with shared grief, empathy, and support, as the Muslim communities did for us after the recent shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue.

Human beings have an instinct for tribalism, for “my people” versus other people. But to create a world of peace and co-existence we must be able to hold both this particularism with the great spiritual value of universalism.

I heard this message just yesterday when a Christian friend, unhappy with the anti-Jewish sentiments in the Gospel readings before Easter, quoted Isaiah: “Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” (58:12) When Isaiah says “your people” I interpret this (as did my friend) as meaning people of all faiths called together by the prophet to be repairers and restorers, to mend the brokenness of the world.
We don’t have to choose. The fullest expression of our humanity is to be loyal to “our tribe” and at the same time hold other peace-loving people of different “tribes” with respect, support, and appreciation. That is why we cry with the Muslim community this week.