A Shabbat In Memory of Sandy Hook Victims
Our congregation and nation are raw with emotion and heartbreak following the Connecticut school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The spirit of our typically joyous Shabbat evening services was muted on December 14.
Senior Rabbi Peter J. Rubinstein began the service with these heartfelt remarks:
It’s quite clear that we’ve come together in this sanctuary tonight with a muted spirit. Part of us died today. Part of us died in the body of upwards of 20 children and eight adults in Newtown, Connecticut.
Part of our innocence died today as well. It is the innocence in the belief that there is a secure haven against violence. It is innocence in the belief that we can remain on the sidelines of the inert debate about how guns are purchased and who purchases them. And it is the innocence in believing that there is a reason for this type of rampage and that in this nation we can be safe from those who, for whatever reason, seek revenge and would take the lives of those in their way, including those whom they believe at some point did them injury.
Part of us died today. We cry for the parents, for the brothers and sisters, and the grandparents and the families of those who sent their child off to school today and will never have them return home again.
We cry and we mourn for those children and those adults who were murdered. They now are part of us. We will name them when we know their names as part of our community. In some important way they are our family and we cry for them and with their families. And now we lean on each others’ shoulders.
Tonight, this service in some ways will be more muted in keeping with what we feel. It will also be an affirmation of who we are, for what we know is that throughout history in the face of the greatest evil, we Jews would light the lights of the chanukiyah. Even when the Nazi flag flew nearby, our people would light the candles as an affirmation of their existence and in the belief that with faith, a dawn will come and healing will be part of their lives. It is that for which we pray and it is that in which we believe.
In memory of these children, I offer this alternative reading of part of [20th century Israeli poet] Chaim Bialik’s “Acharei Moti” ( “After My Death”):
Acharei moti sifdu kacha li
Say this when you mourn for us.
There were these children and look, they are no more.
They died before their time, the music of their lives suddenly stopped.
There was another song in them and now it is lost forever.
So great is the pain.
The music of their lives still for us recaptured.
They will sing another song and it will be within us for though it can be said that they are lost forever, we affirm this evening that we will carry them within us forever for they now are part of us.
[Cantor Katz sings the 23rd psalm in Hebrew]
[Rabbi Salth leads the congregation in English]
The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul.
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’ sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: For thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;
Thou annointest my head with oil; My cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.
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