When 11 Souls are gone, what lives on?

What can we do, as individuals, as a community, to move forward after 11 souls were taken from us at Tree of Life synagogue last Shabbat? It’s unimaginable, but I looked to our tradition to try to find an answer. This week’s Torah portion is called “Chayei Sarah,” “The life of Sarah,” but it takes place after Sarah has already died. Our rabbis notice that before Sarah, others whose deaths had been mentioned in the Torah did not leave a legacy. About Chanoch it is written, “V’einenah,” “He is no longer,” which they understand to mean that he left no legacy. But after Sarah and Abraham died, they left behind them the entire Jewish people.

For the first time, we see a continuation, a legacy. The Rabbis teach that the Jewish people were left with all of the traits, values, and virtues of their ancestors. And most of all, they were left with the virtue of CHESED, of kindness, of goodness. The rest of the Torah portion is filled with Chesed.

And this is what we must be for the souls we lost in Pittsburgh. We must be a continuation. A legacy. We must stand for what they stood for, and embody their values and virtues.

For Joyce Feinberg, let us remember the importance of warmth and generosity, and the value of reaching out to a friend to say hello.
For Richard Gottfried, let us remember the value of commitment, and the importance of taking care of your community.
For Rose Mallinger, let us remember the value of exuberance, and the importance of waking up in the morning ready to live life with vibrancy and joy.
For Jerry Rabinowitz, let us remember the value of presence, and the importance of a listening ear.
For Cecil Rosenthal, let us remember to laugh, and the importance of welcoming, greeting everyone we know with a smiling face.
For David Rosenthal, let us remember the value of goodness and gentleness, and the importance of faith.
For Bernice and Sylvan Simon, let us remember the value of love, and the importance of holding each other close through good times and bad.
For Daniel Stein, let us remember the importance of family, and the love of a grandfather for his grandson.
For Melvin Wax, let us remember to be kind, and gracious, and to appreciate and be aware of the kind acts of others.
For Irving Younger, let us remember the value of passion and responsibility, and the importance of following through with our values.

Anim Zemirot is the last hymn we sing on Shabbat morning. It is a beautiful love song, a song of yearning to be held. “I will sing melodies and weave songs for you, for my soul longs for you…My soul desires the shade of your palm, discovering your endless depths and mysteries.” But last Shabbat, they never made it to this hymn at Tree of Life. Their prayers were cut short along with their lives. For them, let us continue to sing and to find strength in community, synagogue, and Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom