Jewish tradition recognizes the natural cycle of life. As it is pointed out in Ecclesiastes (3:20–21), both people and beasts come from dust and return to dust. The recognition that we all share the same eventual fate can provide comfort amid the sadness that arises when a loved one dies. It is natural for life to end in due time.
What continues to happen in the United States, though, is not natural. Too many lives are ending because human beings are making inhuman choices. Whether in supermarkets, schools, or now at a celebratory parade in Highland Park, IL, an epidemic of mass shootings has a hold on the nation. People are choosing to kill other people en masse, and while our tradition can help us cope with such senseless tragedy, it can be far more challenging to deal with the sadness that comes from a life ended too soon by human hands.
In just a few weeks, we will observe Tisha b’Av, the day that commemorates the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple in Jerusalem). The Sages teach that the cause of the Beit Hamikdash’s destruction was sinat hinam(baseless hatred) among the Jewish people. A similar fate seems destined in the United States as sinat hinam appears to have taken hold of the country. A day meant to celebrate freedom and the potential of a democratic society turned into a day of terror and murder for reasons we still do not know.
Across the country, many children are in camp or otherwise engaged in summer activities. They do not have the support systems that they usually have during the school year, yet they need a way to talk about what is happening and to express the deep feelings that go along with hearing about the violence that is sweeping the nation. If you work at a camp, set aside time for campers to discuss (in age-appropriate ways) what they know about the most recent murders and how they are feeling. If you work at a school, reach out to your families to see what you can do to support them. If you need materials to help you have difficult conversations, we offer a variety of Challenge and Response options.
This is a difficult time for all Americans.
May the memory of all those taken from this world too soon be a blessing.