The horrific murder of 19 beautiful children and 2 innocent adults rocked our nation and the entire world, a short while ago in Uvalde, Texas. Senseless other shootings have happened since then. Our hearts are heavy, and our eyes are filled with tears. We cry for the Uvalde community and pray for the comfort and healing of all the families, of this and other recent shootings.
This massacre, perhaps more than any other, has hit home. We've all been students. We all know teachers. Many of us are parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. We know the purity of children and the absolute ferocity of parental love. We're all deeply shaken by the horrific massacre at Uvalde, Texas.
We have no words to express the grief, no thoughts to put this into perspective, and no way to process such tragedy. How is this possible in G-d's world?
Allow me to share with you a story from my hometown of Brooklyn, New York:
It happened once in my neighborhood of Crown Heights, Brooklyn when the entire community was shaken up by the tragic death of a young man. Lazer Mangel, who lived in our community, was tragically killed in a car accident in the prime of his life, leaving behind a young wife and an unborn child. Everyone attended the shiva to show support and try to give a measure of comfort to Lazer's family.
On the final day of Shiva, Lazer's father asked to say a few words to the visitors. He recalled that many years before when Lazer was 5 years old, the family had a private audience with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. At one point in the meeting, the Rebbe turned to young Lazer and asked him to recite the SHEMA prayer. Lazer proudly proceeded to do just that. Suddenly, the Rebbe's smiling face turned intensely serious and he turned to the boy's father, saying, "You should teach your son that when one recites the SHEMA, he should close his eyes and cover them with his hand."
Said Rabbi Mangel, "I never understood what the Rebbe was trying to tell me. Why the sudden serious tone? What was the point of the message he was trying to convey? I think I now understand. The Rebbe was telling me, prophetically, how to deal with the tragedy of Lazer's death, so many years later. The SHEMA is the basic statement of Jewish faith, proclaiming our complete trust in G-d as the Creator and sole director of the world. When tragedy strikes, we cannot ‘say the SHEMA’ with our eyes open. When we look around, what we see challenges the notion that there is a G-d who is intimately involved with the world all the time, minute by minute. Our limited human minds cannot fathom or reconcile this. So, we need to close our eyes, even cover them with our hand, to proclaim our complete trust that G-d is running the show.”
When the news reported that the surviving children at Robb Elementary School were instructed to close their eyes as they were being led out of the building, I thought of these words of the Rebbe. We simply have no answers. We just need to let go.
Dear friends, to honor the souls of those lost in this tragedy, I suggest each of us take it upon ourselves to say the SHEMA twice daily, morning upon arising and evening before retiring for bed. Close your eyes, cover them with your right hand, and recite the sacred 6 words: SHEMA YISROEL ADONOI ELOHEINU ADONOI ECHAD - Here 'o Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is the only One.
Then offer up your own silent prayer, in your own words.
Dear friends, we have no answers. We cry out to our Father in Heaven for comfort. And we pray for the day when goodness will prevail forever and "G-d will permanently wipe away the tears from every face.” May the families of the victims be blessed with comfort, and may we be blessed with peace.