Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, of The Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, spoke words that pierced me. He said:
“I could only save some. The people in the back of the sanctuary, I could not save. I carry that regret with me and I will the rest of my life, that I could have done more, and that I was not able to do that. That’s my burden to carry.”
During an even darker time in the world’s history and in the history of the Jews, Oskar Schindler said similar words. “I could have done more. I could have saved one more.”
Their words made me think: What more could I have done? Maybe they pierce you, too. What more could you have done?
Back in 1790, George Washington wrote the following in a letter to the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island. “May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.”
The children of Abraham, and every peace-loving person in America, should be able to safely take shelter under their own tree, in their own home or school or workplace. Certainly, they should be safe in their house of worship.
Many years ago, I learned a strategy for coping with anger. Before I say words that can never be unsaid, I need to take some time out, take a walk around the block or count to twenty, anything to give my emotions a chance to cool down.
Our nation needs to take a time out.
I will never write anything one way or the other that expresses my political opinions because I don’t want to add to the noise or alienate people who may see things differently. But I do read and I listen to others’ words.
Our country is like a tinderbox ready to explode. I have friends and family I dearly love who are polarized on both ends of the spectrum. Many of these friends spew their opinions in such hateful language that if I said I voted for the other side, they probably would no longer consider me their friend.
Some may read this and think they agree with me. “Yes, it’s all because of the Republicans.” Others will say, “So true; it’s the Democrats’ fault.” But if they think either of those things, they’re not hearing me. I will say it again. Both sides have contributed to the tinderbox.
As Americans, we need to take a walk around the block. We need to remember what we have in common, why we love our country, what we love about each other.
In the film Schindler’s List, Itzhak Stern quotes from the Talmud. “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.”
We can do more. We can save one life. We can stop the hatred.