We all ought to feel rage. A despotic and hateful killer with a twisted religious ideology armed with an assault rifle murdered 49 people and injured scores more in a nightclub just because they were gay, and we should feel rage. We can’t become numb to such incomprehensible violence just because it’s become all too frequent an occurrence in our country. We can’t let the fact that it happened in another place, in another state hundreds of miles away, lull us into complacency, believing that it’s somebody else’s problem. This indecent, ugly, violent act can’t recede into the recesses of our memories, forgetting about it until it happens again somewhere else. We ought to feel rage.
But more than feeling rage, we ought to do something about it. Without action, our rage is pointless. We must do what we can to stem the tide of gun violence in our country. We must do what we can to keep each other, and especially our children, safe and out of harm’s way. That will mean taking political action, supporting elected representatives who support initiatives that will reduce gun violence and opposing those who do not. That will mean supporting organizations like FaithsUnited, whose agenda is simple: 1) Require every gun buyer to pass a criminal background check, 2) Get military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines off our streets, and 3) Make gun trafficking a federal crime. It will mean supporting organizations like Moms Demand Action, who promote an agenda of reducing gun violence and opposing the NRA’s reckless policy of promoting gun use everywhere. It will mean writing to our senators and congress people to urge action on legislation before Congress, and supporting those elected officials who vote to reduce gun violence in our nation. It will mean attending rallies, circulating petitions, and raising money to get the word out.
And lest anybody think that religious institutions can’t be “political,” that synagogues have to talk only about the Torah and not get involved in matters that affect our community, think again. Faith communities have an obligation to speak out when violence and crime, racism and anti-gay bigotry seep into our community. We won’t campaign or against specific candidates in an election year (the IRS would have something to say about that), but we can—no, we MUST—take a position on issues that affect the safety and well-being of our nation and our citizens and our children. If we don’t speak out against violence and bigotry and hate, then who will? I was so proud that so many Oheb Shalom members attended the vigil in support of the victims of the Orlando Massacre earlier this week. Now we must translate that rage and shock into meaningful action.
In this week’s parasha, we read that the Kohatites, a tribal clan, were charged with carrying the most sacred objects of the Tabernacle, including the Ark and the Menorah, around the desert on their shoulders using poles. Other tribal clans carried supplies with carts pulled by oxen. Why did the Kohatites have to carry the most holy objects on their shoulders? Because when it comes to something truly special, something truly important, there are no shortcuts. There are no easy ways around doing a truly important task.
We face a truly important, crucial, life enhancing task—the prevention of gun violence—and there are no shortcuts to getting the job done. Like the Kohatites did with the Ark of the Covenant, we must carry this task on our shoulders, exert energy, and invest time and resources to make it happen. Prayers and vigils will not suffice…we must act now with commitment and a sense of purpose and with dedication, for no shortcut will enable us to do what must be done to keep us all safe.