I started writing tonight about scapegoats and anti-Semitism. Scapegoats because this week’s Torah portion tells of the goat that was sent into the wilderness to atone for the sins of the Children of Israel. And you know why anti-Semitism is on my mind. It’s on all of our minds these days, as well as violence against people in their houses of worship, and their schools.
The man who killed Lori Gilbert-Kaye in her synagogue last Shabbat had posted a long diatribe on-line that blamed the Jews for… well, for pretty much everything. He, like so many other young white men who are disillusioned with their lives, looked for a scapegoat to blame for his troubles. He didn’t have to look far. He tried to burn down a mosque, and when that didn’t work, decided to shoot up a synagogue.
But the truth is that I don’t want to write about scapegoats or anti-Semitism, and I don’t want to go to any more meetings at the sheriff’s department and learn about the need for enhanced security at houses of worship. I want to go back to just being a rabbi, helping people with the normal trials and tribulations of life, leading services, teaching, performing lifecycle events.
I know that is not an option, that our world has changed and we need to adapt to the new reality, just as we have adapted so well to the new reality of airport security that we can barely remember what it was like to blithely walk up to the gate to meet an arriving friend.
And so I am adapting. We all are. We are learning how to navigate uncharted territory, and we are doing our best to go on with the important work of living fully – loving our friends and family, worshiping together, finding meaning in our daily lives, volunteering and teaching, enjoying the arts and creating art of our own, doing our part to make the world a better place.
Judaism requires more of us, as do the traditions of all people of conscience. Living fully also means fighting hatred and anti-Semitism, speaking out for the weak and helpless, learning about other marginalized people in our communities, and forging relationships with them. It means reaching out beyond our small circles of like-minded friends and family and expanding our horizons.
And this week, as we observed Yom HaShoah, it also means remembering the Holocaust and the six million Jews who were murdered, and renewing the vow: Never Again.