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A broken heart

After my last post and the subsequent AJT-featured guest column full of empty platitudes demonstrating exactly what I was talking about, my rabbi initiated a discussion group on how our community of faith can bring awareness to the all-important issue of gun violence in our country.  We held our first meeting last Shabbat.

The very next day, a deranged individual walked into a church during prayer services and brutally murdered half of the congregation.

The day after Sandy Hook, I remember the images of strangers crying over this horrific image of rooms full of dead kindergartners and wondered why I wasn’t crying too. I asked someone – “where are my tears?”

She said “you don’t have kids.”

And indeed, yesterday, I read the account of the shooting and immediately started crying, even in front of a colleague I barely knew.  

I stand firmly by my position that gun advocates (note: distinct from gun *owners*, many of whom agree with me) are detached from reality that our efforts are wasted upon them.  But my heart is so broken that I cannot help but waste my breath and call out to them today.

This is not going away.  The facts are not on your side.  The Constitution is not on your side.  Jewish values are not on your side.  The majority of the American population is not on your side.

Even aside from this, how do you read the story of a mentally-ill, formerly-incarcerated individual walking up and down the aisles of a church and finding crying children to shoot in cold blood, and wall yourself off from this emotionally? 

How can you envision the bodies of toddlers in the aisles of a place of worship and simply refuse to entertain the role of lax gun regulations in tragedies like these?  

How do you manage to keep your heart hardened like Pharoah’s–must God literally strike down your own firstborn before you will actually reflect upon your own stubborn, easily-refuted arguments?  

A well-known Hasidic teaching: “There is nothing so whole as a broken heart.” I speak now to all of us; not just those predisposed to read the news of every mass shooting to arm themselves with contorted arguments to avoid acknowledging the role of easy-access-to-weapons in these increasingly-frequent, increasingly-destructive events.

There are many who would like to say to themselves, this is not my problem.  I cannot prevent all killings.  I am helpless.

But this is your problem. We are commanded to preserve life, and to improve the world we live in.

Allow your hearts to break.  Imagine your own child or grandchild in terror in their last moments, their precious little light snuffed out before you or anyone else has the chance to comfort them, to remind them how loved they are.

Surrender to the truth, and surrender to your heart. The heart with which you love your brothers, sisters, parents, children; with which you would do anything to protect them from harm.  The heart with which you grieve for your closest lost loved one.  The heart with which you love the people and the state of Israel; the heart with which you are commanded to love God.

Then, embrace the wholeness of your broken heart. Cradle the tiny souls that once inhabited the bloody bodies on the church floor. Comfort them.  Assure them their lights were not extinguished for naught.

About the Author
Bonnie Levine is an attorney and musician, as well as a wife and mom of a two-year old son and a four-year old daughter. She writes about Jewish spirituality, parenting, and Jewish resistance to the current administration - views are her own and not those of her employer or any organization.
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