Reflections on Orlando

In recent days Jews worldwide celebrated the holy day of Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, by reading the Book of Ruth. In the story of Ruth, we discover in the relationship between Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, the transformational power of love and faith. Rather than desert Naomi at Naomi’s time of despair, Ruth proclaims, “Wherever you go, I will go. Where you settle, I will settle. Your people will be my people. Your God, my God.” Ultimately, we learn that love and faith are the essential ingredients for making the world whole.

It is through this lens that we might view the tragedy in Orlando that happened this weekend. The gunman possessed neither love nor anything the civilized world would recognize as faith. Our response, therefore, must be nothing less than an outpouring of those two essential ingredients: love and faith. As we extend condolences to the victim’s of terror in Orlando and their families, let us redouble our efforts to bring all peoples together in the pursuit of justice, peace, and loving kindness. When anyone suffers in our world, after all, we all suffer.

At the risk of infuriating many good people who are responsible gun owners, it must also be said that its not just the dead and their families who are victims of gun violence. We are all victims in a sense: victims of those who legally or illicitly peddle in weapons of mass destruction in our cities, civilians who covet their right to own assault weapons, and lawmakers who refuse to pass reasonable legislation to restrict ownership of the most lethal weapons to the military and law enforcement communities.

That mass shootings account for less than half of 1 percent of the 6,025 people shot to death in the United States thus far in 2016 alone, according to GunViolenceArchive.org, is no excuse to accept the status quo. 212 deaths and another 558 injuries, after all, are not insignificant numbers. Even if the numbers were half that, every life matters and deserves to be protected, including the lives of the other 10 people injured in two more mass shootings, one in Brooklyn, one in Fresno, that happened the day after the Orlando massacre.

As flags across America fly at half staff this week, let us resolve to open our hearts to all humanity, to embrace the universal Truth of goodness and brotherhood, to say lovingly and in full voice,  “Where you go, I will go. Your God will be my God. Until death do us part.”

And let us pray that our nation will one day muster the courage to address effectively all aspects of gun violence, not the least of which is the availability of automatic and semi-automatic weapons.

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