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Odd Comfort

Friday, 3 May, 2019 - 12:09 am

Attending the Funeral of the Holy Martyr Lori Kaye 

Some thoughts I’m having here standing in the lobby where the shooting took place...

Terrorists should not be given airtime, ignore them.   Against my better judgment I googled the shooter in Poway, John Ernest. He’s no KKK stereotype.  A classical pianist, Chopin! this Dean’s List RN looks the part of hospital rounds, not prison yards.  

He consumingly believes that Jews are out to kill Europeans and steal their heritage.  I, a rabbi, the son and grandson of rabbis, know he won’t believe me, but we really, really don’t.  We are baffled: where does it come from? why is he so convinced?    

We know we are not Communists, we know that Jews suffered disproportionately under Communism.  Jews (who denounced all things Jewish) were over-represented in the early years of Marxist leadership – but Jews were over-represented in classical music and medicine as well.

The irrational, vitriol would be called laughably lunatic if it wasn’t so deadly.

Part of me was prepared for this.  when I was six, My babysitter seared into my heart her story from Czarist Russia. A Mendel Beilus was accused of killing a non-Jewish girl to use her blood for matzah on Pesach.    The trial was long and the Jews throughout Russia were terrified.  They fasted every day of the trial from morning to evening, crowded their synagogues and blew the shofar beseeching the Almighty’s mercy.  A guilty verdict would have meant a nationwide pogrom.  Miraculously, Beilus was exonerated.  

The blood libel provided an odd comfort:  if something so patently absurd can be so widely and deeply accepted, then yes, we are good and they are wrong.  
Take a deep breath; this isn’t our first rodeo.  Last week at the Passover Seder we lifted our wineglasses in triumph, “…and this has stood by our fathers and us, for in each and every generation they have risen to destroy us and the Holy One Blessed Be He saved us from their hands...”  Jews have survived for over three millennia, the hatred that ebbed and flowed along the journey has been our foil.  

The brave and kind rabbi of Poway, recounting how his granddaughter witnessed the terror in the synagogue lobby, began to sob; “how can a little girl live with that?”  
Little children have their ancestors’ resilience in their blood.  As they witness terror, they experience love: – she knew her grandfather’s love as he protected the children from the terrorist.  He will put her on his lap.  She will be horrified by his new hands.  She will be enveloped in a sustaining love.

Israel’s Golda Meir famously said she can forgive the Arab enemy for everything except for forcing Israel’s sons kill their sons.  

Against my better judgment I find myself mourning for the terrorist who squandered his life on a phantomic-based hatred which consumed him. I know we will survive, but will he?  I’m surprised that I even care.

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