Special Message from Rabbi Ettin:
Darkness descends at the end of the Shabbat as we grieve for the appalling murders at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh and pray for the recovery of the wounded congregants and officers. We ache for a community devastated by this outrage, for lives lost and shocked families in agony from this sudden and massive devastation. We know that not only lives have been lost. Lost also is the sense of safety in a flourishing Jewish environment, in a congregation’s sanctuary and in the United States of America. Those losses we mourn as well.
With the end of Shabbat we make Havdalah, literally separation. We light the braided Havdalah candle whose many strands and wicks signify that we must combat darkness with our unity, bringing together many to make one greater light against hatred, ignorance, bigotry and violence.
That torch should illuminate our world more clearly to let us see the extent of the antisemitism, xenophobia and racism that continue to pollute this nation and this world. We must see that they have become increasingly bold, self-confident, vicious and public recently.
It must also compel us to remember that, as the prophet Isaiah teaches, we are to be “a light to the nations.” From that privilege and duty we must not and shall not shrink.
The Pittsburgh murderer expressed hatred toward all Jews and especially toward the refugee support organization HIAS, which many of us will recall by its original name, The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. The widow, the orphan, the poor and the foreigner who comes to live amongst you—yes, the immigrant—all of these the Torah commands us to aid and protect. From that obligation as well we must not and shall not shrink.
Hanukkah lies ahead, the festival celebrating the victory of light over oppression. May we strive continually to join our light with that of other brave, conscientious people to illuminate what is dark in our society and even more importantly to be a beacon for all who seek hope and illumination against encroaching shadows.
Rabbi Andrew Vogel Ettin