Tree of Life Vigil

Frank Caplan Remarks – Monday October 29, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: On Monday, the Key Biscayne Chabad hosted a candlelight vigil in memory of the Tree of Life shooting victims in Pittsburg. With about 200 Key Biscayne residents gathering, it was a wonderful gathering to show community in support of our Jewish neighbors and mourn those lost in a senseless act of hate. Frank's message was very important:

The Tree of Life community gathered on Saturday for the ancient sacred Shabbos ritual, for rest and reflection, to transcend mundane preoccupations and reconnect with the everlasting. In prayer, they would invoke and hold fast to the Almighty as manifest in the everyday. They would be rededicated to think and act and live righteously. They would have observed this Shabbos as every Shabbos and depart in good fellowship. But 11 of them were murdered.

It’s no revelation to observe that evil abounds in the world. To state the case – that evil exists - doesn’t help to dissipate evil, and doesn’t help us cope with hate crime and tragedy. What does help a little is a basic human impulse - to come together in the midst of affliction, as a community, to support each other and draw perspective and comfort from each other. This helps diffuse the pain and outrage a little bit, but also, importantly, our coming together is a life-affirming action that reminds us of ancient lessons about a good life in action - principles of goodness, generosity and love that were in the hearts and minds and on the lips of those at Shabbos services at the Tree of Life.

We cannot afford diffused empathy or emotional distance in response to mass murder. We cannot afford despair and resignation. Yes, there are practical discussions about social fissures and public safety; the need for protection against endless threats from shadows anywhere, but that’s another conversation for another time. For now, a community of good people was attacked, and we as good people have a call to action. We’re here to answer the call – to reflect on our own thinking, how we might have room to improve ourselves, and to be re-purposed in making hatred and violence extinct, so that random insanity does not take down all that is good in life; so that civilization can progress.

The brokenness in people, the violence and discord, the selfishness and fear that retard progress – these all diminish and fall away, slowly perhaps but surely, if we transpose shock and mourning into action, by remembering our divine gift and purpose in life, by continuing to do all we can with ever-greater resolve to spread tolerance, understanding, goodness, generosity and love in the world.

This is what they would have been praying for on Saturday. May we be agents in their prayers being answered and may their lives be blessings for all of us.

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