The following is an edited version of a letter that I sent to my congregation this afternoon.
I have been grappling with a conundrum. Do I suggest to you that we march this Saturday morning at the March for Our Lives, even though it’s Shabbat? Or do I suggest that you stay home because it’s Shabbat?
The march was organized by teenagers to push legislators to enact sensible gun laws. There will be a massive march in Washington, DC on Saturday, and in hundreds of communities across the nation, including ours.
It doesn’t conflict with our services; we have a service every weekend, alternating between Friday and Saturday, and this weekend it’s on Friday night. But Saturday is still Shabbat, even if we’re not praying together. So I asked the editors of the congregational newsletter to omit it from this week’s issue.
But I have been uncomfortable with that decision; after all, gun violence is something about which I am passionate, as you know since I write and speak about it often.
Therefore, I have decided to follow my conscience, and tell you that I will be at the march in downtown Sarasota at 10:00 am this Saturday morning to stand with the teenagers who are marching for sensible gun laws. I invite you to join me.
I do this because too many lives have been cut short and too many more lives are at risk.
I do this because Judaism teaches that pikuach nefesh, saving a life, takes precedence over the laws of Shabbat.
I do this because I am disgusted by our nation’s tolerance of excessive gun ownership, especially when it comes to weapons that I believe do not belong in the hands of civilians.
I do this because I wish to emulate Abraham Joshua Heschel, who said that when he marched in Selma with Martin Luther King, Jr. he felt that he was praying with his feet.
I do this because giving money to The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is no longer enough for me.
And I do this because just this week there was another shooting at a school. It happens again and again and again, and if our legislators aren’t going to do anything about it on their own, I feel obligated to do my part to force them to act.
Rabbi Joshua Hammerman wrote an op-ed in the Times of Israel about his decision to participate in the march, and said this: “The obligation to save lives overrules virtually all other Jewish laws, and this march, if successful, will surely save lives. I can think of no better way to dramatize both the historic magnitude and the religious significance of this march than to hop on the Shab-bus.”
I agree wholeheartedly, and will proudly march on Shabbat, wearing a tallit and kipa.
If you wish to join me on Shabbat morning here in Sarasota, I will be proud to march with you.
I will be marching here in Seattle. Let’s all pray with our feet.
Nance Morris Adler Sent from my iPhone