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And Aaron Fell Silent

March 5, 2018

 When Aaron, the High Priest's, two children, Nadav and Avihu, die - Aaron's response, as recorded in the Torah, is "Vayidom Aharon" - and Aaron fell silent. That's how I have felt over the past few weeks. I'm usually one of the first to post in reaction to tragedies or troubling times but since the shooting in Parkland I have found myself, like Aaron, silent. 

I simply haven't been able to find the words to express my sadness, my frustration, and my outrage. I am, of course, sad for the families and our Parkland community. I am also frustrated that this keeps happening across our country and I am outraged at our collective indifference. That somehow the rights of a person to bear arms is more worthy of protection than the very lives that right puts in danger.

I'm not of a neutral, or even, sound mind when it comes to this debate. I'm tired of the bandaid approaches: More background checks, no bump stocks, raising the age for purchase of a firearm, arming teachers.  These are all important but none of them address the core question that lies just beneath the surface of this debate: Why do we have such an obsession with guns and violence and when did we allow ourselves to become a nation that is so blind to the bloody and horrific outcomes of that obsession?

In last week's parsha, Ki Tisa, we read about the Israelites' impatience with Moses' delayed return from Mount Sinai. Just moments after they thought he was to return they turned to Aaron and sought another leader and symbol of God to which they could pray. The idol they created was the golden calf and for millennia we have, as a people, been mourning that decision.

 

Why was it that these people, who had just witnessed the glory and might of God, could so easily been duped into believing in a false idol? Why were they so willing to give up all of their wealth and any shred of dignity? Why were they willing to risk God's anger despite having just witnessed God's tremendous power in Egypt?

I ask these questions not only of the Israelites but of us today. How is it that we have bought into the idea that weapons built for the express purpose of killing are okay to be sold in the local big box store? Why are we so willing to give up our ethical clarity and Jewish values such that there are now more guns in America than there are people? And why are we willing to risk God turning God's face away in shame and disgust at our lack of moral fortitude in the face of such evil?

I'm still overwhelmed by silence even in asking these questions. I pray that sometime soon I find my voice again and that we all raise those voices loudly and clearly.

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