Friday, December 21, 2012

Theology and Action: Reflections from Rabbi Robert Levine

I wanted to share with you the words of my mentor, the senior rabbi of my congregation, Rabbi Robert Levine. These went out to the congregation earlier this week:


Prior to my coming to Congregation Rodeph Sholom in 1990, I was rabbi in Danbury, CT., which is adjacent to Newtown. Some of my members came from that lovely town. I have driven to Newtown and Sandy Hook countless times and I am familiar with the location of the school, the firehouse, the churches that filled our TV screens after this unspeakable tragedy.

Newtown is as quiet and bucolic as depicted. Obviously their peace and holiday preparations were utterly shattered by a perpetrator armed with weaponry no individual should have access to, harboring enormous magazines filled with bullets spewing out death and destruction that he had no business being able to possess.

We are justifiably outraged at this unspeakable assault and at him, but we also need to turn our pain and anger to positive use by doing everything we can to enact federal legislation to help curb the NRA’s stranglehold on gun discussions in this country. Personally I would want as much gun control as we can get, together with real penalties for those who possess such deadly firearms. Get these instruments of destruction out of the hands of all but law-enforcement personnel. Period.

The political landscape thankfully, appears to be changing on this issue, but the window for meaningful action may close quickly. The President will have to lead, Congress will have to have a backbone, we, the people, must demand.

Over the past days the President has been an eloquent comforter-in-chief. He was genuinely anguished and seemed quite resolved. Yet, I must firmly disagree with one theological reflection he offered the nation, that “God has called them home.”

No, Mr. President, God has nothing to do with this unspeakable act. God wanted these precious children and their educators to enjoy full, happy lives. The God I have a relationship with cannot swoop down to stay the hand of the depraved and the ill. God does give us the inspiration to learn from our actions and do better next time. God does implant within us the strength to go on, the hope that as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will one day see the light. God does expect us to do something meaningful about gun violence.

As we always do at Congregation Rodeph Sholom, we will add our voice and influence whenever and wherever we can....

We’ll hug our kids tighter and resolve not to fail them in the months ahead.

The prophet Isaiah envisioned a time when nation shall not lift up a sword against nation. Never could he imagine that individuals would one day lift up assault weapons and end the dreams of children. The stakes are so much greater today, and the penalty for failure all the more grave.

May God comfort these grief-stricken families.

May we resolve to reduce their numbers and finally protect our children.

We wish you a safe and blessed New Year.

Rabbi Robert N. Levine

So, it's just a few hours until Shabbat. Here are some ways you can, right now, resolve to "turn our pain and anger to positive use":

1) President Obama has promised to send proposals for gun control legislation to Congress no later than January. Click here to write to your legislators and urge them to support a reenactment of the federal ban on assault weapons and other sensible gun control.

3) Noah Pozner, one of the victims of the shooting, loved tacos. Tacos for Noah lets you make virtual tacos in Noah Pozner's memory. If you are so moved, you can also send real tacos in his memory to people are still struggling without their stoves and ovens in the Rockaways.

Looking for more ideas? See this piece from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism for more ideas of what you can do.

Wishing us all a Shabbat Shalom, if that's possible.

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