July 28, 2016
Dear Friend of Israel
We live in a world filled with trouble. We see it in the news every day: the brutal killings of people enjoying themselves at clubs in Orlando and Fort Myers, Florida. The assassination of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. The murder of innocent people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France, and churchgoers in Normandy. Murders of women deemed by Islamist extremist relatives to have dishonored the family name. The list could go on. No corner of the world is immune from such violence.
As people of faith, who try to live with goodwill toward our fellow man and seek to help those suffering and in need, we struggle with how to respond to these atrocities. As violence and suffering increases, it is easy to lose hope. But this brings to my mind an old Jewish saying: “All the people of Israel are responsible for one another.”
Though the saying comes from a Jewish context, it applies universally: All of us are responsible for each other. What does this mean in the real world? It means that, faced with those who would sow chaos and destruction, we must be the ones who sow hope, who make ourselves responsible for doing good, not just for ourselves and our families, but for our churches and synagogues, our communities, and our world.
It can begin with the smallest of things. We can be the ones who, in the course of our everyday lives, say “hello” and “thank you” to the waitress at the restaurant serving us our coffee, to the policeman directing traffic, to the people we encounter every day who we might otherwise take for granted. One simple act of kindness just might turn someone’s bad day into a good day; it just might be the act that gives that person the will to extend kindness to others.
Now, this may not end the scourge of terrorism. It may not bring about world peace. It may not lead to a world free of suffering. But it will bring a measure of peace into our hearts, and allow us to share that peace with others. We need to be directing our lives toward that goal. We need to be able to end each day by saying: I did the best I could to end anger and hatred by bringing, even in some small way, some love and understanding into the world.
As people of faith, it is our particular responsibility to try to change the environment we live in to one of kindness, hope, and love. We remember this when we read the biblical injunction “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Our acts of kindness may seem insignificant, but they are powerful and meaningful, and can change each and every one of us. And when we take that role as agents of change seriously, we are taking one step closer to realizing the Jewish concept of tikkun olam – “repairing the world” – and that, my friends, is desperately needed right now.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President