Tragedy at Newtown

As names were called at the graduation of my youngest son from college last week, I could not help but think about the names of the 20 young children who had been killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School and whose names will not be called at a graduation ceremony.

I want to share with you below the passage from the Midrash which I taught at services last Shabbat morning. Our rabbis in this beautiful text show that God is a compassionate God who shares our sense of loss at a time of tragedy.

“The Holy One Mourns”

It is reported in the name of R. Joshua ben Levi: The Holy One summoned the ministering angels and asked them, “When a king of flesh and blood loses a dear one and he wishes to mourn, what is customary for him to do?” They replied, “He hangs sackcloth over his door.” God said, “I will do likewise.” Hence it is written, “I clothe the heavens with blackness and I make sackcloth their covera” (Isa. 50:3).

What else does a king of flesh and blood do [when mourning]?” They replied, “He extinguishes the lanterns.” God said, “I will do likewise.” Hence it is written, “the sun and the moon are become black, and the starts withdraw their shining” (Joel 4:15).

“What else does a king of flesh and blood do?” They replied, “He walks barefoot.” God said, “I will do likewise.” Hence it is stated, “The Lord, in the whirlwind and in the storm is His way, and the clouds are the dust beneath His [bare] feet” (Nah. 1:3).

“What else does a king of flesh and blood do?” They replied, “He rends his purple robe.” God said to them, “I will do likewise.” Hence it is written, “After the Lord did what He purposed, He rent His purple robe (bitza imrato)” (Lam. 2:17).

“What else does a king of flesh and blood do? “They replied, “He sits in silence.” God said, “I will do likewise.” Hence it is stated, “He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he was taken away” (Lam. 3:28).

I wish for you, your family and the world blessings of health, safety, security and peace in the coming secular new year.


Originally published at Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt.

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