Why were the 11 Jews who were killed in Pittsburgh at the temple in the first place? What compelled them to go to the synagogue that particular Saturday morning? And how does it come to be that a doctor, a 97 year old woman, and 2 developmentally disabled brothers, amongst others, assemble for the same reason, at the same time and in the same place?
Shabbat and Peace. They were there to honor the Shabbat. They were there to pray for peace.
On Shabbat, Jews all over the world assemble for services and no other word is repeated during the service more than Shalom, peace: “May there be peace, great, heavenly, awesome, all-encompassing peace in our hearts and in the world.” During the Shabbat service we dance and sing out, “Shalom!” for all that is and for all that fills us with joy and exaltation! We pray and, perhaps even weep, “Shalom,” for all that isn’t and fills us with loneliness and longing. The word “Shalom” is sung, chanted, spoken, petitioned, supplicated and poured over every moment of the Shabbat service because it is the soul of Jewish life.
Shalom is the pulse that beats through the heart of the Shabbat service. Shalom is the sound of the blood pulsing through the veins of the Jewish people who know the best and the worst of what human beings are capable us and choose to focus on peace.
Why were the 11 Jews who were killed in Pittsburgh at the temple? They were praying for peace. They were yearning for peace.
What a tribute it would be for the whole world to stop on Shabbat this week with the intention to bring more peace into the world. What a tribute it can be if we all use this time not only to pray for peace but also to work for peace.
Hate is contagious. But love is more contagious. Love is much, much more contagious and so is peace.
This Friday evening as the moon rises and Shabbat descends, for a 24 hour period, we will once again welcome Shabbat. During that period of time, consider closing your eyes and pouring your light into the world by meditating on the word “Shalom.” Imagine the four Hebrew letters: Shin, Lamed, Valv, Mem, as the connective tissue between you and people all over planet earth who are working for peace.
Send your light to the families of those who died. Send your light to everyone who is suffering. Send your light to yourself.
May your prayer grow wings and fly from your heart to caress the hearts of others in this most tender, vulnerable, yet ever still stunning world of ours.
From my heart to yours,
Rabbi Tamara Kolton Ph.D.