(In the wake of the shooting in New Zealand, I share an amended version of my words to my synagogue, Congregation Cnesses Israel, in Green Bay this past Shabbat.)
In the Jewish calendar, this past Shabbat (Sabbath) is called Shabbat Zahor — the Sabbath of Remembering. The name comes from three verses of the Torah that we read as an additional reading during Saturday morning services. Those verses remind us to remember the brutal of the Amalekite people against the Israelites and also to blot out the name of Amalek.
Those seem like contradictory injunctions. How do we simultaneously remember and forget? I believe that the Torah is instructing us to remember the vicious attacks and also do our part to eradicate evil.
The horrific and inhumane attacks in the mosques in New Zealand reminds us far too painfully that we must continue to do our part to combat the evil and terror and that still plagues our world and remains as an affront to our humanity. It also brings back, in my mind, the painful memories of the recent attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Despite my broken heart, another memory — one of warmth and comfort — also comes to mind. I recall the herculean effort of the Muslim community in Pittsburgh to raise funds for the Pittsburgh synagogue and also its inspirational offer to personally serve as standing guards to help insure a safe praying space for Jews. I also recall the inspiring gathering here at Congregation Cnesses Israel after the Pittsburgh shooting, where hundreds of Green Bay community members comes to our temple on a Friday night for a night of solidarity and to join us for worship services.
The attacks in New Zealand remind us of our obligation to fight evil and to remember the all-too-present attacks on faith communities in our world. We must also be mindful of the unending and unapologetic love, support, and strength that we offer each other in times of need.
May the love that we bring to each far outweigh the hate, and may it inspire us to do everything in power to make this world one in which we are all free and safe to to express our faith in worship.