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After the Tragedy in Pittsburgh

November 2, 2018

Shalom, dearest Rodfei Zedek,

Many Jewish communities across the country are calling this upcoming Solidarity Shabbat or #showupforshabbat.  I have to say that I am conflicted about this idea.  I am not, in any way, conflicted about the need for community and affirming its centrality in our lives, especially this Shabbat.  I am not conflicted about naming the tragedy and terror that happened at the Tree of Life Synagogue last Shabbat and the trauma we all are feeling.  I am, though, uncomfortable with making this Shabbat about anything other than Shabbat, the time and place where we gather every week.  Shabbat is Shabbat:  It is one of our greatest blessings and is a mitzvah.

We are not coming together because there was a tragedy but because we are a community that values Shabbat and what being together means and what it brings to our lives, during good and bad times.  This Shabbat more people will come to shul and that is wonderful.  All of us—Jewish professionals and Jews in the Pews—need to be more sensitive and aware of the needs of each other:  talking when that is needed, listening when that is needed, or simply offering a smile that says, “I know, I am heartbroken, too, and, I am so glad we are here for each other.”

You may not often come to services on Shabbat, or you may never come; but we will always be here to celebrate Shabbat, and we will always be here for you when you want to be somewhere that speaks to your Jewish soul.  This means that we will be here when you need to say the Mourners Kaddish, when you are seeking to connect spiritually, or when you need the embrace of those who accept you for who you are and need nothing more of you.  We, especially this Shabbat, do need that warm embrace of community, a community that serves as family for so many and will, without question, feel different this Shabbat.

This Shabbat we will show up because we have, as Debbie Friedman sang, the “courage to be a blessing.”  I hope that means that we double-down on the meaning-making that goes on here on a daily-basis; a community that understands that, as our tradition says, one mitzvah leads to another.  I hope that blessing leads us towards realizing that, yes, anti-Semitism is real and it has never gone away so to must we fulfill the command, as Jews, to care for those who, like us, are vulnerable.  So too must we fulfill the command, as Jews, to care for those who, like us, are vulnerable.  We are vulnerable to great acts of terror and many out there are vulnerable just by their very being.

I hope you can join us this Shabbat.  It happens to be our first This American Shabbat of the year, and we have wonderful and insightful speakers.  We also have Minyans Katan and Gadol, programs and services that put our community at the forefront and afford us the privilege to dwell in the beauty of how our lives have been enriched by this most sacred home.  This Shabbat I hope you show up to affirm that Rodfei Zedek is our home, that Shabbat and Torah are sacred because they have been embraced and bettered l’dor va dor, generation to generation, but most importantly, they allow us to exist in the profound comfort and love we give to each other, while breathing greater life into our tradition.  Thank you being my community, through happiness and joy, sadness and sorrow and each blessed time in between.

Shalom, Rabbi Minkus

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