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For these, I weep,
My eyes flow with tears:
Far from me is any comforter
Who might revive my spirit;
My children are forlorn,
For the foe has prevailed.
(Lamentations, 1:16)

Beloved TBC Family,

I’m afraid the verses above, traditionally read on Tisha B’Av (the 9th of Av), the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, offer little comfort – no false hope or optimism – just mourning. Today, after yesterday’s massacre of 19 innocent children and two of their teachers, this is what is left. After Columbine, after Sandy Hook, after Margery Stoneman Douglas, after Robb Elementary, after 26 other school shootings already just this year and over 200 mass shootings, not even halfway through 2022, this is what is left. Gun violence in this country has become an endemic plague that our nation is unwilling to vaccinate itself against by passing stricter controls on gun purchases and ownership, and our children and families are paying the price.

I wish I knew what it would take to tear down the deadly idolatry of guns. The Jews of the ancient Near East set themselves apart from their polytheistic, idol worshipping neighbors by rejecting and eliminating the ritual of child sacrifice to the god Molech, a common practice of the pagans and idolators of the area, who believed that killing their children in the name of the gods would bring protection from enemies, water for crops and prosperity for all their endeavors. This is the purpose of reading the Aqeda – the Binding of Isaac – on Rosh Hashanah. To show that Abraham does not sacrifice Isaac. Rather, an angel intervenes and stops Abraham’s hand teaching us that no cause is worth the death of an innocent child, even in the name of God. Since then, child sacrifice has been unthinkable for Jews – scarcely even imagined in today’s world.

In Genesis 22:12 we read, 

“Do not raise your hand against the boy, or do anything to him…” 

And in Leviticus 18:21, 

“Do not allow any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech, and do not profane the name of your God: I am Adonai.”

And yet, such sacrifice clearly continues. It is sickening… our hearts break for the victims’ families; our eyes are wept dry, our cries for action swallowed by the wind that blows the next violent shooting tragedy into the news cycle. No words can bring these precious children back. Their parents don’t want our hearts or our thoughts, they want their children, yet we are powerless to deliver them. And that is excruciating. But we can be the angels that collectively stop Abraham’s hand by demanding more from our elected officials to enact gun laws that keep us safe. Each of us has a voice. So yes, feel the despair, and let us pray and find a way to unite in smashing the idolatrous alters housing the guns which have become today’s instruments of child sacrifice and replace them with monuments of compassion and love. Please, let us raise our voices once more to cry out, “Dayeinu – Enough” …

May the memories of all the victims of this tragedy forever be a blessing
B’shira uv’rachah – in song and blessing,

Cantor Harriet Dunkerley
Temple B'nai Chaim
(203) 544-8695
82 Portland Avenue (Wilton)
P.O. Box 305, Georgetown, CT 06829