I admit to you that I have been walking around in a bit of a cloud this week. It has been so hard to accept the news of the shooting at Congregation Tree of Life in Pittsburgh last Shabbat. We are all grieving; we are all shocked and in some ways we are all numb. It is a great challenge to accept the news that this was the worst attack of Jews in America. With the rise of anti-Semitism in our country I would have expected the worst attack to be much more than the lives of 11 individuals. But as I learned more about these 11 Jews, I was reminded that they represent people that we have in our congregation just like in nearly every congregation in this country.
We all have people who stand by the door and greet others as they enter the building on Shabbat morning. We all have people who sit in the back of the Sanctuary for all sorts of reasons and we all have people who attend synagogue every Shabbat, rain or shine, hot or cold, Bar/Bat Mitzvah or no Bar/Bat Mitzvah because it is their shul - it is our shul and our community and our Sanctuary. In so many ways, things just seem different today than they did last week.
One main thing these 11 people had in common is that they went to synagogue on Shabbat. To honor their memory and to continue to live out their values, Jews all over this country are going to shul this Shabbat to just be there together. These 11 individuals made up more than a minyan and I know so many others who will honor them tonight and tomorrow and Sunday morning by making sure we have more than a minyan to support one another, to comfort one another and to be there for one another. I hope you will be able to join us to honor one another tonight at 6:30 PM and tomorrow morning at 9:30 AM. I look forward to welcoming the guests from our great community who will be with us to demonstrate their support and solidarity during these challenging days.
The text I thought of often this week, is Psalm 23. It is often read at funerals and Shiva minyanim and I am sure it was included in the memorial services in Pittsburgh this week. Among the powerful verses of this Psalm is the phrase that we walk through the valley of the shadow of death - notice that we walk through our time of grief. We cannot run through it to make it go more quickly. And as we walk we are in a valley, surrounded on both sides - we are never alone. We never let mourners sit alone.
This week, as our Jewish community was in mourning, we were contacted by many of our dear friends who showed us that they are grieving with us. We received cards and notes and emails and phone calls from members of the Princeton Religious Community, our friends in law enforcement, our Mayor, Police Chief, members of many local churches, the Hindu community, and so many others.
As we prepare now for Shabbat and consider our own personal prayers, I encourage us to keep the events in Pittsburgh in mind. At our Community Prayer Service, the combined choirs of Nassau Presbyterian Church sang a beautiful melody that I found quite inspiring and helpful that I will keep in mind during my personal prayers. The words were originally written by a prisoner in a Concentration Camp during the Holocaust and I think they are still powerful today:
I believe in the sun even when it is not shining
And I believe in love, even when not feeling it.
And I believe in God, even when God is silent.
May there someday be sunshine
May there someday be happiness
May there someday be love
May there someday be peace...."
Ani Ma'amin - I believe - we Jews always believe.
Rabbi Adam Feldman