"For everything there is a time: A time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace. A time to be silent and a time to speak. A time to weep and a time to laugh” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
So goes the verse from the wisest of all man; King Solomon.
The challenge for us today is; what time is it now?The Jewish world has been thrust into a state of shock as a result of events in Pittsburgh last Saturday. A cold blooded malicious act of murder perpetrated against the most innocent of victims, including a holocaust survivor, whilst performing the most sacred of acts.
And this to happen in the USA! A country that has served as the greatest bastion for freedom of religion. A country that has protected millions of people from religious persecution.
How is this possible?
As Jews we have known and experienced tragedy all too often. And when we do we do best when we turn to the Torah, our timeless book of Life, for inspiration and guidance. In particular we focus on the weekly portion in order to discover It’s timely and poignant message.
As we open up the Torah this week there is a message that clearly stares out at us.
We read about the passing of the first of our matriarchs, Sarah and how her beloved husband Abraham buried her in Chevron. Yet astonishingly the name of the portion is called “Chayei Sarah” the “Life of Sarah”.
How can we possibly reconcile the two? Are not life and death two fundamentally opposing forces? Like light and dark aren’t they intrinsically incompatible.
It is in this dichotomy that we can unlock the secret to the immortality of the Jewish people.
When faced with death (G-d should protect us) we are challenged to understand what is life. When something is taken away from us we try to understand what it was we once had.
What is the true definition of life and death? Our Talmud (Berachot 18a) has a most revealing insight: “The righteous, even in their death are called living”. The reverse is true with the wicked.
True life is timeless. It is a state of being which has no inhibition or limitations. It is intrinsically infinite. It is a positive force of energy that by its very nature taps in to the source of all life and in turn feeds others.
Like a flame it effortlessly shines and gives warmth with no loss to its innate energy. On the contrary it becomes even more vibrant as a result of its sharing nature.
Life manifests itself in all the positive faculties we human beings possess. It acts to infuse the love and compassion we have for others. It serves to inspires the kindness we show especially to strangers. It is the pure and innocent force behind all the good deeds we do.
Death on the other hand is negative and destructive. It infuses the hate and anger that sometimes possesses us. It encourages us to be mean spirited in our relationship with others. It is intrinsically a selfish force. Consequently it is destructive and therefore finite.“
And the living should take it to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). We the Jewish people through our unique history of extreme ebb and flow appreciate and know life more then most.
Our response to tragedy must therefore be. To unite as a people and stand together as the vanguard of fighting death with life.
We do this by living life to its fullest in the genuine sense of the term. We vanquish hate with love. We replace anger with dialogue and respect. We do acts of kindness especially to strangers.
True life is not a zero sum game. It is contagious. It is is infinite. It knows no boundaries.
Like the flame. The more it is shared, the brighter and warmer the world becomes. In fact there is no need to fight darkness.
Only to shine ever more light. Until there is darkness no more!