By Rabbi Marc Gellman
8:11 PM PST, December 21, 2012
Carl Sandburg wrote, "A baby is God's opinion that life should go on."
Oh, God, dear God, what is your opinion about the slaughter of 20 babies and their brave teachers? Is it now your opinion that life should not go on? This is one path some have taken out of this darkness.
They say, with Franz Kafka, that "The meaning of life is that it ends." They say, with Thomas Hobbes, that "Each man is the wolf of his neighbor." If you don't want us to travel down that road of nihilistic despair, we pray to you now, help us to believe that the good in us will win. Even when our children and our hope are cut down like trees, help us to believe, with Job, that at the first scent of water, we will send out new green leaves again.
At the coming of this winter of sorrow, dear God of all our seasons, help us to believe that spring will come again.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote, "What seems to us more important, more painful, and more unendurable is really not what is more important, more painful and more unendurable, but merely that which is closer to home. Everything distant, which for all its moans and muffled cries, its ruined lives and millions of victims, that does not threaten to come rolling up to our threshold today, we consider endurable and of tolerable dimensions."
Oh, God, dear God, help us to mourn not just those children and those teachers taken from this life in the state of Connecticut in the country of America, but also, dear God, open our hearts to the suffering and deaths of other children and other teachers whose deaths have not come rolling up to our thresholds today: the children and teachers of Syria and Congo and North Korea and every place where children and their teachers are caught in the web of war. Each one of them was made in your image. Each one had the songs of their lives cut short even as they were singing them. We pray to you, as Lincoln prayed to you, that our hearts might become as large as the world.
The poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote: "I would like to beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer."
Oh, God, dear God, help us to have patience with all the social questions raised by this tragedy and to be cautious of those offering neat and immediate answers. For well we know that there is no cure for evil here on planet Earth. Help us to help those among us who struggle with severe mental illness and who stare every day into the eyes of demons at the doors to their minds. Help us to love them while also protecting ourselves and our children from those who cannot conquer or control their demons.
May we never force the innocent among them to live like pariahs or prisoners of our collective fears. Help us also to learn how to defend ourselves against evil, domestic or foreign, without making us victims of our own weapons of defense. Keep us far from those who are often wrong but never in doubt. Grant wisdom to our leaders that they might find a way to protect both our freedom and our future.
A.A. Milne wrote: "'It is hard to be brave,' said Piglet, 'when you're only a Very Small Animal.'"
Oh, God, dear God, help our children to be brave. Our children are very small animals and so many of them are so frightened now. Help them to be brave by believing in what they cannot always see, so that in time they can see what they believe. Help them to be brave by believing that the souls of these children are with God in heaven, even though they cannot see heaven yet. Help them to be brave by believing that they do not need to cling to us always in order to be safe.
The most frequent phrase in your Holy Bible is: "Be not afraid." Help us to take those words into our hearts and hearths, so that our children can laugh and sing again.
May the Christians among us still find a way to celebrate the light and hope of Christmas, and may those of us who do not celebrate Christmas find light and hope through them.
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