22 Iyar: 37th Day of the Omer
Week Six: COURAGE
Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al s’firat haomer.
Blessed are You, LORD God, ruler of the Universe, who hallows us with the mitzvot, commanding us to count the Omer.
Today is the thirty-seventh day — five weeks and two days of the Omer.
Though I have fallen, I rise again;
Though I sit in darkness, God is my light (Micah 7:8)
There is a well-known saying that change is scary, but so is staying the same. As I grow older, this life truth is much easier to accept. I have written at length in previous posts about leaving my former religion, and today’s reflection on discomfort of change reminds me of my futile experience trying to advance social justice issues in an organized religion that doesn’t want to change (and indeed, wants to revert 100 years in the past to keep women and all “others” in their place).
But as I am writing now, I am getting NYT notifications about a mass shooting at a Texas elementary school that left 18 young children (in grades 2-4) and one teacher dead so far. President Biden spoke tonight, as so many are completely frustrated at these almost daily stories of mass shootings on innocent victims: “When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? I am sick and tired of it. We have to act. And don’t tell me we can’t have an impact on this carnage…For God’s sake, we have to have the courage to stand up to the industry.” Indeed, change is scary but so is staying the same.
Fear of fighting the powerful gun lobby in the US has resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent, and has also left ripples of endless trauma for the families, friends and communities who are impacted by the gun violence. Moreover, so many of these gun lovers are also anti-abortion and laughingly refer to themselves at “pro-life” — completely willfully blind that they care more about the 6 week fetus inside a rape victim than the do a child in a classroom being gunned down by a maniac.
Even the last major mass shooting a school in the US, Sandy Hook in 2012, was largely ignored by the gun lobby. And worse, they propagated conspiracy theories consumed by the mass of right-wingnuts that Sandy Hook never actually happened, and it was a left-wing fiction to demonize the gun lobby. Who would have that that in our society that we can’t all agree that the lives of schoolchildren are more important that lunatics’ right to carry assault rifles. Staying the same in this situation makes me terrified for the future of our society. I thank God everyday that I am not American. I am so heartbroken about this news.
Rabbi Kedar invites us to be courageous, and lean into change:
And though the tumble and rumble of fundamental change is chaotic and alarming and hard and disruptive and so frightening, and though it goes against our natural instinct to protect and defend who we are and what we know at all costs, sometimes the cost of staying the same is simply too great…The courage you need…and the struggle you will experience…will empower you, transform you, and enliven you…Excellent, creative energy, passion, and sense of purpose require something different. Remember: spiritual and intellectual growth is a journey of risk and courage (Kedar, pg. 127).
May today’s tragic news prompt a revolution and an eruption, a massive call to action and call to courage to change the embedded ways of being that value guns (and fear the gun lobby) over lives. May we be unafraid of the risk of dismantling and disempowering the big, bad gun lobby and stand up for children, for the innocent, for peace. As Jews, we are called to repair the world (tikkun olam) and be vocal advocates for social justice. The time for change is now. The cost of any more lives lost at the hands of maniac mass gunmen with assault rifles is too great. If it isn’t us to demand change, who will?
And so it is. Amen selah.