By Cantor Emma Lutz
On Saturday evening, mourning the deaths of the eleven souls martyred at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh that Shabbat morning, I turned to these words from our tradition:
עַל־אֵ֣לֶּה ׀ אֲנִ֣י בוֹכִיָּ֗ה עֵינִ֤י ׀ עֵינִי֙ יֹ֣רְדָה מַּ֔יִם כִּֽי־רָחַ֥ק מִמֶּ֛נִּי מְנַחֵ֖ם מֵשִׁ֣יב נַפְשִׁ֑י הָי֤וּ בָנַי֙ שֽׁוֹמֵמִ֔ים כִּ֥י גָבַ֖ר אוֹיֵֽב׃
For these things do I weep, my eyes flow with tears. Far from me is any comforter who might revive my spirit. My children are forlorn, for the foe has prevailed. (Lamentations 1:16)
That night, I searched for a salve to heal those open emotional wounds of shock and grief. But just as the words of Lamentations teach us, some moments simply lend us no sorrow or relief. Sometimes there are just no words.
And yet, on Sunday morning when I arrived at Religious School, my spirit was revived. I drove up to our campus to see the smiling faces of our warm and capable security guards. I found a consolatory familiarity walking into our sacred chapel. And most significantly, I felt connected and inspired when talking to our fifth, sixth, and seventh grade Religious School students about their own feelings, hopes, and prayers regarding Saturday morning’s tragedy. The students bravely shared with each other, passing the microphone around the room:
“I feel scared, but I know everything is being done for me to be safe at temple.”
“I am proud to be Jewish because even when others try to hurt us, we as Jews never turn as a group to hurt or hate on others.”
“This was one just one crazy person. We have to remember that not everyone in the world feels such anger and hatred.”
“I am prouder than ever to be Jewish because it makes me special and different.”
In our children’s responses, I felt comfort and hope. Perhaps sometimes God is silent because God wants us to keep our ears tuned to one another, knowing better than we do that we must listen to and console each other in times of sorrow and pain. While we will never experience a refuah shleimah, a complete healing from the wounds of last Saturday’s shooting, we can be present for each other’s pain and find inspiration in the hopeful voices of our children, the next generation of proud, resilient, and emboldened American Jewry.