A Rabbi Reflects on a Jewish Response to Our Violent World

First Baptist Church
First Baptist Church

Reflections on Texas Attack

During our services this past Shabbat, I offered a prayer: that the sense of normalization we feel around acts of senseless violence soon end. It feels as though each month is punctuated with unimaginable pain. After last week’s attacks in New York and Texas, words fail us. There are no words that explain the murder of the innocent, and our hearts break at the stories of children whose lives were cut short.

Last month, after the senseless attacks in Nevada, I wrote,

“As we learned over our High Holy Day season, the Jewish tradition teaches that prayer is effective only when it leads to action and that while our prayers allow us to atone before God, only our deeds can restore ruptures among people. The epidemic of mass shootings across America is a public health crisis of massive proportions; this year alone has witnessed 270 incidents with multiple victims. If our prayers today are to ring true, we must call on our leaders to create policy solutions that curb violence and create a safer nation.”

I continue to believe in the need for our nation to address gun violence in meaningful ways. And while prayer is called for–especially after tragedies in a house of prayer–I believe that prayer is not enough.
This past Shabbat, when we reflected on Abraham’s activism in Sedom, I shared the words of a prayer written by Rabbi Jack Reimer. He writes, in part,

We cannot merely pray to You O God, to end despair,
For You have already given us the power
To clear away slums and to give hope
If we would only use our power justly.

Therefore we pray to You instead, O God,
For strength, determination, and willpower,
To do instead of just pray,
To become instead of merely to wish.

I join with our community in praying for the day when we become a safer nation and a safer world.
Rabbi Stein
B’nai Shalom, Walnut Creek