BARUCH DAYAN HA-EMET
Our world is darker…
Paris is often referred to as “The City of Light” (La Ville Lumière), both because of its leading role during the Age of Enlightenment, and more literally because Paris was one of the first European cities to adopt gas street lighting.
For now, Paris is darkened. With deep sadness, we remember the 129 innocent souls who died last Friday in Paris. Men and women – at a soccer match, at a concert, eating dinner in restaurants, out on the streets – were murdered because of a demented understanding of right and wrong. ISIS, ISIL, or Daesch – or whatever it is to be called – has again wreaked havoc in order to spread fear.
The question we all must answer is a simple one: At what cost?
At what cost does France – or the United States – or any other democratic country – secure its citizens? How much do we allow those who wish to harm us to win…by making us spend billions of our currency to harden our buildings and borders, by reducing the personal liberties we cherish and they rail against, by creating a culture of fear instead of one of expansive joy and delight?
At what cost?We know some of the cost. 129 lives.
From the Associated Press, we learned a bit about some of the victims:
We may not have known Fanny, Mohamed, or Kheireddine before. Now, however, they are family. They and – at the moment – 126 others – have become ours to remember. We remember them for what they loved…not for the hate that destroyed them.
May we take the time to learn about those who died and celebrate the goodness they lived. May the evil that caused their deaths not win. May we embrace freedom. And may we keep Paris ablaze in lights, celebrating the true meaning of enlightenment!
For what do we reach?
In light of the events in Paris, the commentary on this week’s parasha, Vayetze, seems to offer some way to process what we have experienced. These words were written by Yonni Limmer Wattenmaker. He writes:
“Jacob has left Haran for Beer-sheba and stops for the night to rest. In his dream a ladder reaches from the earth to the heavens, with angels traveling up and down on it. God then appears beside Jacob and blesses him with promises of land, descendants, and protection on his journey. When Jacobs wakes, he proclaims, “Surely Adonai is present in this place, and I did not know it!” How often have we found ourselves in the presence of God at the most unexpected of times, in the most unexpected of places?
When I was a child, I was an eternal optimist. I was as certain of God’s existence as I was of the leaves on the trees and the waves in the ocean. If the sun rose each day and a rainbow occasionally graced the sky, God existed. That was my faith, pure and simple. When I got older, I had to confront some painful facts and difficult situations, which raised questions that sent me on a tumultuous spiritual journey: How could the God of my childhood explain the Holocaust? Prejudice? Anti-Semitism? Sickness? ? Where had the God of my childhood gone? So often when I have most needed to experience God’s presence and to feel God’s compassion and God’s mercy, I have instead felt rejected and alone. How many times have you pleaded with God and not received an answer?
When the images of Jacob’s dream are presented to us, we are told that the angels of God ascended the ladder before going down toward the earth. What is the purpose of the ladder? Is it the means by which Jacob’s prayers reached the heavens so that God could hear his pleas? Did the angels ascend in order to return to Jacob and bestow upon him God’s blessing? Perhaps each of us has a ladder like Jacob’s that is just waiting for us to grab its nearest rung.
Most of us will always be on a spiritual search to define God in a way that best suits us and illuminates our lives. But while we search, we must keep in mind that at the most unexpected times and in the most unexpected places, that still small voice can be heard and God surely dwells where we are.”