Words are used to convey feelings and thoughts, to convey messages and ideas. Words create a bond between author and reader when both are open to it. Today I have no words. I contemplated not writing anything. Today we are transported to a dimension beyond words. I wanted to write about Yitzchok, the world of laughter. To capture some of the brightness and nuanced complexities of laughter. Laughter is a dimension beyond words. It is what happens when we are moved suddenly, beyond comprehension. Some social theorists believe that laughter is a social function, it communicates to others. Sarah laughs when she hears that she will conceive and birth a child at the age of 90. She laughs inside herself. And while the Midrash twists the word, “Inside herself” to means “amongst her close ones” the simple words of the Posuk mean she laughed within. Inner laughter, for herself. A communication with herself.
There is laughter tucked all around the narrative of Yitzchok’s early life. His very name is a directive, “Laugh”. As if we can, on command, simply laugh. Of our own free-will. Spontaneously. This is Yitzchok Avinu, a baby born to a woman who was infertile for 90 years. Who filled herself with laughter, perhaps, as a way of preparing herself for the “laughter” that she would bring in to the world. A child who magically lived way beyond the surface of reality, inside the depth and the core of everything. Evenly suspended between practical reality and the reality at the depth of potential possibility. The dimension of laughter. The laughter of Moshiach.
But today I can’t write about laughter. Today we are catapulted into that other dimension beyond words. The dimension of tears. Is it any irony that a family gave birth to a baby boy last week when Hashem commanded Avraham the Mitzvah of Bris Milah? Is it any irony that a family celebrated a bris on the day we read about Yitzchok’s bris, the first to be circumcised on the 8th day? The Shela Hakadosh combines the “sacrificing” a part of the baby boy’s body at his bris and the Akeda narrative as two experiences intertwined. We sacrifice the dead foreskin, cut it off and draw blood from the most vulnerable part of the body in order to give expression to the boy’s life force. The completion of his birth. We sacrifice our bodies as a way of discipline, to shut our bodies up in order to hear our souls. Our physical reality is too loud and stimulating for us to live the life of the Soul. The Akedah teaches us the length humans can go to hear our souls calling to us. Be ready to sacrifice everything, be ready to die. But not to die. Not to die!
11 people shot in shule. Celebrating a bris. Laughing. 11 aromatic spices of the Ketores. A sweet smelling offering was sacrificed to God by a murderous rageful lunatic yesterday. And they went up to heaven not of their own volition. Hashem did not ask them if they are ready to die. There was no altar on which they readily steadied their body and prepared to die. They didn’t make any peace with their families or take leave of their possessions. This was not an orderly Akredah narrative. God did not step in at the very last minute and save their lives. This was a messy chaotic sacrificing of Ketores. 11 stars in Yosef’s dreams. 11 coverings of the Mishkan. 11 the numerical letters of vav and heh, of Hashem’s name. There is no use in asking, “why?” No human being has answers or could fathom the insanity of such acts of Hashem.
But we can sit with the uncomfortable burgeoning anger that fills us at such times of atrocity. To yell at Hashem “we can’t take it anymore, in a shule of all places!!! The Holocaust is behind us!!!!” is a good thing to do. We can sit with the overwhelming tears of sadness that rake our souls. To see three tearful women holding a Tehillim on the front page of the Washington Post is enough to make me cry. We can feel the need to do something about this. And we should have discussions with our own shules and schools about the need to take security as a top priority. We should get involved. I shudder to think of anyone who might take the need for security less important by comparing or contrasting between conservative and orthodox congregations. One thing anti-Semitism has hopefully taught us, as the Jewish people, is that the only ones who differentiate and discriminate amongst “different types of Jews” is us, no one in the non-Jewish world does.
But underneath there is a helpless sadness and a seething rage I feel. 11 beautiful people. Gunned down in what is, for me, the safest place in the world outside my home. Shule. While celebrating one of the most joyous and deepest ceremonies of our lives. A Bris. No, today there is no spontaneous laughter. Today there is only shock and tears. And I can’t take it anymore… May Hashem end this reality with the coming of Moshiach and avenge every ounce of Jewish blood by building bricks of blood and tears into the third temple b’mheira b’yameinu.