Tag Archives: peace

A Week of Tears

photo by Lis Shapiro,  October 28, 2018 

This week Is Holocaust Education Week in Toronto,. It is a week devoted to learning about and remembering the Holocaust. We listen to Holocaust survivors who share their experiences, watch films, and attend lectures and musical performances relating to the Holocaust. In addition there are presentations about atrocities and genocides against other peoples.

This week is also the anniversary of Kristallnacht, and in a few days we will observe Remembrance Day. It is a day devoted to honouring those who fell fighting in World War I.

IMG_9443photo by Lis Shapiro,  October 28, 2018

Last week was a difficult week, a week of tears. The murder of eleven Jews in Pittsburgh who were in synagogue praying on Shabbat shocked the world. Tears were shed around the globe and vigils were attended by all races and religions in hundreds if not thousands of cities. Antisemitism was condemned internationally by leaders from countries in every corner of the planet. But the truth is, it doesn’t matter how many words were spoken by leaders of the nations, eleven Jews were shot to death because they were Jewish.

The parsha on that fateful Shabbat was “VaYeira”, the story of Abraham and Sarah and their long awaited son Isaac.

Abraham and Sarah had been chosen by God to lead a new nation that would be righteous and exemplify a moral compass created by God. The new nation would be small compared to the peoples around them. And, as the the story played out both in the Torah and throughout history, the new nation created by God would survive longer than other nations would survive, but at a price. The new Jewish nation would be be envied, feared and hated.

photo by Lis Shapiro,  October 28, 2018 

Unfortunately amid the tears there was also a lot of hateful speech. Following the Pittsburgh massacre fingers were pointed and leaders were blamed. Why did this happen and who is to blame is a big question. “Who is to blame?” One answer is that the gunman, fueled by anti-Jewish propaganda and armed with legal guns and rifles is to blame. Another answer is that unbridled hate speech feeds the loathing. An individual who hates, an individual who uses the free choice God gave humanity, but uses it selfishly and with malice, commits a crime like this.

Human beings are given free choice but Jews are given many, many, many strictures and guidelines about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable behaviour. We aren’t expected to love everybody. We don’t even have to like everybody, but we have to respect our parents and teachers, we can’t kill or maim, we can’t steal from another, we aren’t even allowed to “covet ” another’s property. We aren’t allowed to slander. We aren’t allowed to take another’s life, even in error. If all people read the rules God gave us (many of them are outlined in parshat Kedoshim, Leviticus chapters 19 and 20 ) there would be respect for those unlike ourselves and the world would be a peaceful place.

Lis Shapiro,  October 28, 2018 

We live in a world where “freedom of choice” and “freedom of expression” are seen as the highest levels of “freedom”. But according to Judaism that’s not true. As we walk through life and make decisions we need to remember that each decision we make impacts others. The rules and guidelines in Torah help to keep a respectful and safe environment.

When someone dies their death leaves a hole in the lives of their family and the community. May there be fewer holes in the world and let’s all try to mend the holes that exist.

The photographs in this blog were taken by my friend Lis Shapiro. The day after the shooting she was walking in the rain. As she looked around her she saw that even nature was shedding tears.

With prayers for peace, B’Vracha,

Laya

es around them, and they would be

 

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Justice, Justice

צדק צדק תרדף   

SofetimFrankfurt Mishneh Torah, Northern Itlay, dated to 1457.  Illuminated by the Master of the Barbo Missal

Justice, Justice, you will pursue. These are among the first words in this week’s Torah portion. The words echo in my ears, louder and louder.

We live in a western democracy. I live in Canada which has a democratically elected government. The United States to the south also has a democratically elected government. Here in Canada we are tolerant- at least we think we are. We strive to be more tolerant to others than ever before. Gay marriage has been legalized. Sex change operations are accepted. All modes of dress- from halter tops and shorts to burkas are seen on the streets. Acceptance and school accommodations for learning disabilities, autism, hyperactivity, physical disabilities and attention deficits are the norm not the exception. Employers cannot discriminate according to gender, race or religion. It all sounds good and right.

BUT- strangely enough we seem to have lost our way. In the environment of free speech and inclusion, free speech and inclusion are disappearing. And it seems that not enough people, including those espousing human rights on University campuses, are noticing.

Those in favour of abortion, or in favour of Israel are shut down and excluded from public discourse. Those who are concerned about extreme Islam and doubt the direction of “Islamophobia” are called bigots and anti- Muslim. Those who want to use normative pronouns are pilloried and fired. This is not free speech. It is censored speech. Free speech is respectful speaking and listening without descending to hatred and threats. Free speech has too often morphed into aggressive speech and action. Unfortunately violent and hateful rallies are happening here, in Canada, and on university campuses. There is a problem with how the population defines free speech and democracy.

It’s true- Black Lives Matter. However, ALL Lives Matter.  White Lives, Men’s Lives, Women’s Lives, and Children’s Lives. Brown Lives, Indigenous Lives,  Jewish Lives, Christian Lives, Muslim Lives, Somali Lives, Yazidi Lives ……..

Two weeks ago there was a demonstration in Halifax calling for the removal of a monument honouring Edward Cornwallis. The Mik’maq people are among those calling for the removal of the statue. Although the Mi’kmaq are marginalized indigenous people who have lost land and rights in Canada, their leaders ensured that the rally was peaceful. They understand that the “fight ” for human rights and recognition does not have to be violent.

Currently too many activists from the far left and the far right resort to violence, hate messages and even murder. It’s frightening to read about the attacks in Barcelona, Spain; Turku, Finland; Halamish, Israel;   Charlottesville, USA; London, England; etc. etc. The behaviour of the Mi’kmaq is a model for discussion, understanding, and behaviour.

The balance of respect and dignity is part of justice. So when we read “Justice, Justice, you will pursue” let’s endeavour to bring that practice into our lives, our world,and the world around us.

With prayers for peace, acceptance and understanding,

Shabbat Shalom,  Laya

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Blessings for a New Month

P1130574Rosh Hodesh by Laya Crust

Elul and September, 5776…2016

Elul and September started at about the same time on the calendar this year.

In Judaism there is a beautiful prayer we say as we greet each new month:

May it be Your will, Lord our Gd….to renew for us this coming month for good and blessing. Grant us a long life, a life of peace, a life of goodness, a life of blessing, a life of sustenance, a life of physical health, a life marked by reverence for heaven and dread of misdeeds, a life without shame or disgrace, a life of richness and honour, a life with love for Torah and reverence for good, a life in which our heart desires are fulfilled for good.

joy-0024“Joy” by Laya Crust

September is a time of new beginnings. Students of various ages begin school and university. Employees say goodbye to the summer and start their work knowing autumn and winter are approaching.

Elul is a different type of beginning and ending. It is the beginning of looking forward to Rosh HaShana, the Jewish new year. It is a time of reflection and self improvement. The letters of the month of Elul (אלול) are the first letters in the words אני לדודי ודודי לי, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” So- Elul is a time of love…not just for our husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, but a time of giving love to those around us.

I was in the airport yesterday. A gentleman moved his luggage and then moved himself so a friend and I could sit together. I thanked him and we had a lovely conversation. At the end of the conversation he gave me his card.

p1150579

As we go forward in September and in Elul, let’s remember the prayers for the new month. Let’s try to be happier, feel blessed and share our blessings with those around us. And thank-you, Chris Rudge, for your daily commitment to Random Acts of Kindness.

Have a good month filled with love, health , peace and fulfillment.

Laya

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