Living this Life
After tending to the needs of mourners at a funeral, I usually have a quiet moment alone in my car.
I take that moment to collect myself before going on to my next appointment, and the thoughts that come to me are not usually the big metaphysical questions - why do we die? Is there life after death? Will I see my loved ones again?
Invariably, the question that comes to me in that moment is this: with this life - the one I know I have - am I living it wisely? Or in the beautiful language of Mary Oliver, ”Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?”
I can’t honestly say what, exactly, I am doing with my one wild and precious life, but I know I have to try and live by my values in this lifetime, because I do not know if I will get another chance.
I don’t know when or how the angel of death will come for me - I pray that when that meeting inevitably happens, I am old, holding the hand of my wife, knowing that our kids are grown and well. But of course, there are no guarantees.
I pray my death doesn’t come at the hands of a terrorist entering our synagogue, as they have entered synagogues in Pittsburgh and now Poway, California. The terror of that experience is unimaginable, and Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein has been inspiring as he leads his community - and all of us - through this newest moment of fear. I pray that I and this beloved community are not the next victims of white supremacy. Of course, I don’t only pray, but take concrete action as well.
Here at BHA, we will continue to work in cooperation with our security team, Mayor Randy Casale and other political leaders and will take steps to keep our community as secure as possible. We look forward to the day when the right to live is taken as seriously as the right to brandish an assault weapon.
But here too, the most pressing questions we face are not about death, but about life. There is no question about it - death will come, whether in the form of a terrorist’s bullet, a sober conversation after a biopsy or a car crash.
The real question is are we - as individuals and as a community - living right in the time we have before then?
Perhaps in this moment, you, like me, are anxious about what the terrorists might do next. If so, I invite you to stand with me in the values that we hold dear.
I invite you to come and welcome the Shabbos Queen with learning and davvening on Friday night, I invite you to open your soul in the forest on Shabbat morning and I invite you volunteering or giving blood at our Community Wide Blood Drive on June 2. If your heart is seeking love, I invite you to these things regardless of your religious or ethnic background.
These domestic terrorists and their political enablers might steal our comfort and hours of our sleep, but they cannot steal our values. We can choose to abandon those values - or we can stand strong in those values and continue to live proudly as Jews - as people who seek the Divine everywhere, who stand with our brothers and sisters facing oppression, who give of our time, money and literal blood to save lives.
Terrorists and their feckless enablers might try to determine how our lives end, but we alone determine how our life is lived.