Rabbi Yoel Caroline

Photo by Raquel Garcia / Islander News 

Chabad Key Biscayne Jewish Center

What is the Jewish response to tragic acts of murderous hatred? Virulent anti-Semitic hatred expressed through pogroms, massacres and attempts at genocide have been a part of every generation of Jews.

Let us take a look at the few seconds of terror from Chabad of Poway on April 27.

What do you think? At the very moment when once again, a perpetrator of pure hate and evil entered Chabad of Poway on the holy Shabbat which was the last day of Passover and started shooting, at that very moment, were the worshipers personally free?

Coming from Passover, the Jewish people’s celebration of salvation to freedom, it is apropos to ask again to further examine our capacity as human beings to be free.

For thousands of years the Jews have known that Freedom is an inside choice.

Life is constantly choosing. It is choosing what we do, it is choosing what we say, and it is choosing our very attitude toward life and to our fellow human beings.

The way of the human being is to be constantly striving for one’s thought, speech, and action to be in sync with one’s core beliefs and values.

The incessant din of influence on values from the outside world is louder and more confusing than ever before. Core values and core beliefs must come from inside ourselves. Our job is to filter external influence for positive learning and growth opportunities with which to nurture and clarify our core values and beliefs. Since our core values and beliefs are constantly being challenged the learning and growing process is lifelong.

However while our core values and beliefs make up very much who we really are, we are also engaged in a lifelong challenge to keep what we do in sync with who we are.

Ancient Jewish teachings tell us that what we do includes our speech and even our thought. We are responsible for not merely the way we act, not merely the way we speak, even for the way we think. So we are obligated as humans to deeply establish and constantly strengthen our core beliefs and values and to constantly check that our thoughts, speech and action are in sync with those values.

I like to offer a cute reminder to myself and others that we are always mindfully training ourselves to be doing personal TSA scanning. On a personal level TSA stands for thought, speech and action. Every time we travel, we go through a TSA scanning process. Well, as we travel through life on a daily basis, we do our own personal TSA scan, checking whether the way that we are thinking, our attitudes towards life and others, the way that we speak, and the way that we act are in sync with our core values and beliefs.

Three of the core values and beliefs of the Jewish people are:

1. We serve our Creator.

1. We sacrifice to provide G-dly moral education to all children.

1. We TREASURE life.

And guess what? These were also core values and beliefs of the founding fathers of our United States of America.

And therefore, the answer to whether at those moments of terror the worshipers at Chabad of Powell were truly free is absolutely yes. When Lori Kaye of blessed memory chose to jump in front of the gunman, giving her life to save the life of her Rabbi and dear friend of some 25 years she made a heroic choice. She was free.

When Rabbi Goldstein with two of his fingers shot off and bleeding profusely and Almog Peretz, chose to gather the children and rush them to safety without regard for their own personal safety they were free! When Jonathan Morales and Oscar Stewart, two brave men who had come to worship in peace, chose to rush the man of evil and terror at great risk to their own lives they were free.

When Rabbi Goldstein had asked, a border patrol agent who had recently discovered his Jewish heritage and was driving 3 1/2 hours regularly to worship with this community that made him feel so welcome, to carry a weapon in synagogue, a decision that may have saved many lives, he was free.

When after the cowardly terrorist had fled and Rabbi Goldstein, trying to slow the bleeding on his fingers with a prayer shawl, stood on a chair outside the synagogue and spoke to his congregation with words of strength and inspiration he was free! In the words that he shouted all right declaration of absolute freedom. He shouted in Hebrew, “Am Yisroel Chai!” “The Jewish People Live! The Jewish People Are Eternal!”

The Jewish People will respond to this tragic act of murderous hate as we have so many times. We will mourn our dead, support the wounded, pray for healing and pray for redemption. And we will continue to live. We live with hope. We live with faith. We live with purpose. We live with unity. We live with love. AM YISROEL CHAI! The Jewish People Live! The Jewish People Are Eternal!