South Africa Chief Rabbi: Jews need to spread light despite Pittsburgh attack

As the powerful words of the Havdallah were being sung – “for the Jews there was light, happiness, joy and honor” – I looked at the faces of the crowd gathered under the stars.

By CHIEF RABBI WARREN GOLDSTEIN
October 28, 2018 11:54
1 minute read.
Neighbors around the corner from the site of a mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue embrace

Neighbors around the corner from the site of a mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue embrace one another in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood on October 27, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (photo credit: JEFF SWENSEN / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)

Last night, as the utterly devastating reports from Pittsburgh came in, we as a community were already gathered in the streets of Johannesburg to make Havdallah together. Immediately, our hearts went straight to Pittsburgh – to our brothers and sisters, cut down in barbarous hatred.

We stopped our celebration. Our legs stopped dancing and stood still. We stopped singing and turned to the timeless words of King David’s Tehillim. We prayed together for the victims and their families. And we were not alone. At Havdallah ceremonies and concerts all over the world, the focus shifted from joy and celebration to pain and sadness. We were reminded once more that we are “like one person with one heart”. That we feel so deeply for one another. The shots were fired in Pennsylvania, yet they were heard so clearly here on the streets of Johannesburg and all over the world.

As the powerful words of the Havdallah were being sung – “for the Jews there was light, happiness, joy and honor” – I looked at the faces of the crowd gathered under the stars. I reflected on the enormous power that human beings have to bring darkness into the world, to bring hatred and suffering. But, at the same time, I reflected on the infinite human capacity to bring light, hope and love into the world.

Havdallah is all about the forces of light and darkness in this world – forces locked in an eternal struggle with each other. Havdallah is about taking the light of Shabbat and spreading it to the days of the week so that it fills every aspect of our daily lives. At Havdallah, we rededicate ourselves to bringing the light of Shabbat to our lives and our world.

Our strongest and most powerful response to the darkness of the Pittsburgh haters is to boldly and courageously spread light in the world. We cannot be intimidated, frightened or paralyzed by the darkness. We mourn and we pray, but we are not defeated or afraid. We have faith in G-d to work with us to ensure it is the light that will be victorious, in the words of the Havdallah itself: “I trust and will not be afraid.”

Let us go forward together with heavy, but resolute and confident hearts, to defeat the darkness with our light.


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