From Yizkor To Yizkor

Oasis Songs: Musings from Rav D
Friday, May 3, 2019 / 28 Nisan 5779

Summary: Rabbi Kosak reflects on the past week and shares a link to a powerful article by a fellow Portlander about the aftermath of the San Diego attack.

What a week. Last Saturday afternoon, I was basking in the late afternoon sun, seated on the stone wall in from of our flowering kale. What clouds were about were full of drama and dimension. It was a fitting way to recharge after the Yizkor memorial service earlier in the day. Commemorating those who are no longer with us is touching and deeply humanizing. Simultaneously, allowing old griefs to resurface makes a demand on our emotional energy. So I felt tremendous gratitude for a picture perfect, final day of Pesach and the bit of respite.

At just that moment, my neighbor waked over and told us about the Poway shooting at the Chabad center in San Diego. Again, I thought? It was exactly 6 months to the day when a Pittsburgh shooter entered and wantonly murdered a group of people at the Tree of Life Synagogue. A wave of grief, and all those energies that were recharging in me—suddenly spent again. This is our world and this is our moment in time. We go from one Yizkor to another.

The only response that made any sense to me was to head over to visit Reb Motti Wilhelm. He is one of my hevrutas, one of my study partners, and one of our local Chabad rabbis. I wasn’t sure if he would have heard what had happened, or if he would want his shabbat sullied with such dark news. I erred on the side of friendship and a desire to be present one way or the other. We spent the end of the festival and sabbath together, engaged in a Chabad custom of a final “seder”—their “seudas moshiach.” This meal of the messiah is a final opportunity to share words of Torah in the waning hours of Passover. To bring light into the darkness, and to reassert positive values in the presence of evil.

Increasingly, this seems to be the challenge of the moment. In a world in which terror, hatred and carnage are ever-present, it is essential to live joyously, or at least to attempt to do so. Joy is, among many things, a profound repudiation of evil. If evil is the alignment with the forces of death and chaos, joy is the deepest celebration of life.

Still, it is clear that joy is under attack. Freedom is under attack. American exceptionalism, with its elevation of religious pluralism, is on the front lines. The following article by my friend and author, Joshua Safran, highlights one person’s struggle to make sense of these changing times. While I hope he overstates where our country is, only time will provide a true answer. Part of that answer will be our capacity to muster joy even as we adapt new and more intensive security protocols.

Here is his article, published first in USA today. He gave me permission to reprint it here, but Judaism cares about intellectual property rights, and so I provide the link. Please read it. In place of Shabbat Table talk questions this week, why don’t you discuss the article. I’d love it if you’d share your impressions with me.

A joyous shabbat to all of God’s creatures large and small,

Rav D

If you’d like to continue this discussion, follow this link to CNS’s Facebook page to share your own perspectives on the topics raised in this week’s Oasis Songs. Comments will be moderated as necessary.

Torah Sparks Commentary This Week