I remember the first time I heard Debbie Friedman's "L'chi Lach." I was 13 and I was attending a youth group event at my synagogue, Tree of Life Congregation in Columbia, S.C. I am sure now that I was confused and full of mixed emotions. It was different - I had never heard it before. It was beautiful - I felt an immediate connection to the music. It was magical - that memory has remained stamped in my memory ever since. I have heard many Jewish songs since and before that day. However, that one memory is as vivid today as it was 28 years ago when I heard it for the first time.
This week, we read from Parashat "Lech Lecha," the part of Genesis in which God challenges Abraham to leave the land of his forefathers, the only land he knew - to a new Land in which God would accompany him and be with him from that moment on. In my life, I have been on many journeys, traveling across cities, states and countries. However, the most gratifying of these journeys was when I traveled from Baltimore, Maryland to Phoenix, Arizona in March, 2001. You see - I was moving from one "strange" land to another "strange" land. The driving force in this new move was my desire to begin my life with my beloved Batya....and I have never turned back since.
Now, granted, Batya and I have traveled on several journeys since: from Phoenix to Duluth, Ga.; from Duluth to Sandy Springs, Ga.; from Sandy Springs to Roswell, Ga.; from Roswell to Jerusalem; from Jerusalem to Cincinnati; from Cincinnati to Marietta, Ga.; and most recently from Marietta to Knoxville, Tn. We have learned a lot about ourselves and each other along the way. From our first journey we went from a family of 2 (plus a dog) to a family of 5 now in Knoxville. There have been ups and downs; good days and not so good days. It is often the journey that is the challenge and sometimes it is the destination rather than the journey.
This brings me to now. We are a family of 5 living in Knoxville, Tn. Who would have thought that this UGA Dawg would wind up being extremely happy in the middle of "Orange" town? But, it is true...we have found our home here - at Temple Beth El, in Rocky Hill, at the Webb School...it all just fits. And, we are extremely blessed and honored to be here! Just like Abraham, we were unsure at first of this move...just like for Abraham, our journey was NOT easy. However, also just like Abraham, we are better off for the journey AND proud to be in this new destination!
Before Batya and I decided to start "trying" to get pregnant (with Carlie our 1st born), one of my friends posed a very interesting question to me - "Erin, why would you want to bring children into this horrible world?"
At the time, I was a bit put off by the question and really did not give it any thought. I just shrugged it off and responded, "Cause we do..." That was 12 years ago or so. Needless to say, in many ways our world is quite a bit "darker" today than it was 12 years ago. Or, that is what some might want you/us to think. It really does feel that way when you look at a newspaper, turn on the news or check things out in online news.
So, why wouldn't someone ask that question? Should I feel worried or frightened about the safety of my children or for my spouse? Sure - but that goes with being a spouse and a parent. It is not like today is any scarier than yesterday was. I always worry about the safety of those close to me. It's just part of being a human being...or at least that is what I think. I am so tired of reading about or watching terrible events unfold in front of my eyes. Truth - it began, for me, on that fateful day of September 11 - when the United States of America was faced with something we thought could never happen.
Now, I do not want anyone to think I am equating what happened on September 11 with the shooting/massacre in Las Vegas, Orlando, Hesston, Colorado Springs, San Bernardino, Roseburg, Lafayette, Charleston, Waco, Newtown, Columbine and so many others. Yes, some of these shootings were by citizens, while others were not. And what do all of these tragedies have in common? Many, many, many innocent people were killed, perhaps just for living their lives. This is NOT a question of politics or placing blame.
It is time for us, as citizens of this world, as humans, to recognize we have a problem. The problem is first and foremost that we are not able to agree on what the problem is...whether it is guns, disturbed human beings, or whatever else. It is a problem - and we need to stop it now before any more humans are killed. My good friend, Michael Moran said it best when he implored us to love and care for each other first. Now. It must be done.
It is impossible for us to turn back the clocks to yesterday or yesteryear. However, what we can do is wake up, call the problem what it is - it is mass murder - and then work together to prevent it. It can be prevented...and we need to begin the healing/solution by loving and caring for each other.
My prayer for today:
I am scared, God, I am scared.
Too many are dying, too many are dying.
The solution is there, if we just open our eyes and see.
God - give us the wherewithal to do what we need to do.
I am frustrated, God, I am frustrated.
These mass murders CAN be prevented, these mass murders CAN be prevented.
We need to reach out our hands in love and caring.
God - give us the desire to want to do what we need to do.
I am nervous, God, I am nervous.
What if no one agrees with me, what if no one agrees with me?
I hope people will join me and figure things out.
God - give us the strength to not give up even when we are tired.
I am inspired, God, I am inspired.
Many heroic acts were seen, many heroic acts were seen.
People put themselves in harm's way to help total strangers.
God - give us the heart to give hope and love to everyone.
B'ezrat Hashem - With God's help....
I am a husband, father and rabbi - just trying to help to make the world a better place!