"Ad Matai. How Long?"

A message from CBST’s Senior Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum following the mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, on May 14, 2022, and in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, 2022.

We were devastated last week when an 18-year-old murdered 10 Black people in a grocery store in Buffalo, New York. I am humbled to have had the opportunity to speak at Mayor Adams’s vigil for those shot and killed in Buffalo.

And now, our hearts are breaking again following the murder of 19 children and two teachers in an elementary school in Texas.

We learn in Jewish tradition that each life is like an entire world. And the murder of children hits especially hard.

As we learn in the Talmud, “Jerusalem was destroyed only because we nullified the education of school children,” and “The world only exists because of the breath of school children.” (Talmud Bavli, Masechet Shabbat, 119b)

Ad matai. For how long?
Gun violence killing worshippers in a Sikh temple, Christian church, Muslim mosque, Jewish synagogue. How long?
Gun violence in a grocery store, movie theaters, an LGBTQ+ dance club, elementary schools, high schools, colleges. How long, O God, how long?
How long, O Lord, do we allow unfettered gun access, tactical military-style guns, in the hands of people who hate?
For how long will we allow children who weigh 40 lbs, who believe in the tooth fairy, who aren’t even tall enough to go on most roller coasters and water slides yet—for how long will we decide their murder is acceptable in our country?
At least 196 countries in this world of ours, and our country is the only one in the world where this happens with such frequency that sometimes it fails to even be the top story on the news. Yet there is nothing we, as Americans, can do about it? No other developed country in the world has this wide-scale problem.
We are the only one.
In New Zealand in 2019, 51 people were murdered in a horrendous act of hate and murder that targeted Muslims. By the following week, Prime Minister Ardern had wheels in motion for the ban of military-style weaponry in her country.
In the United States in 2012, 20 children and six educators were murdered at Sandy Hook School, still the worst act of murder in a grade school on our nation’s soil, and almost 10 years later we, as a country, have done nothing.
Ad matai. For how long?
For how long shall we continue to let this happen in our schools, in our neighborhoods, in our country?
We will continue to show up for vigils and contact our elected officials, but another thing you can do is give your soul the gift of being with us for Shabbat services, in person or online, as we mourn together and strengthen each other for the work ahead.
As I said at the vigil for those killed in Buffalo last week: Teach our hands to make peace in the world. Teach our arms to hug, when it’s COVID safe. Teach us to be agents of the peace and justice we know You want to see in this world.
Have hope. Have courage. Be strong.
May there be peace in our country and an end to this plague of gun violence, soon and in our time.
—Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum
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