From Charlottesville To Barcelona: The Jewish Response

08/18/2017 02:32 pm ET

"See, I give you today blessing and curse," - Deuteronomy 11:26.

The horrific events of this past week - from Charlottesville to Barcelona - have brought these staggering words culled from this week's Torah portion to the forefront of our consciousness.

First, we ought to recognize that goodness exists in our world. God's blessings are given to us "today" and every day. Sometimes, they are found in the places we expect them least.

A woman once wrote a letter to the late Lubavitcher Rebbe complaining that her children are "rebellious" and "disrespectful." The Rebbe, who was childless, responded movingly (among other gems of wisdom): "You complain about your children and their behaviors. But I ask you: do you know how many childless couples would give everything they have just to have children, as you do?" The Rebbe's message was clear: Sometimes, all we need to do is open up our eyes and "see" the blessings of God that are given to us every day, and everywhere.

But God has also given our world its fair share of "curses." In the past few days alone, we have witnessed some of these curses spewed by its most evil perpetrators, from the KKK to ISIS, from "white supremacists" to "jihadists." Indeed, curses exist. And sadly and painfully, we must recognize them, and the evil that they spread, as a fait-établi. For, too often, we rush to rationalize - or, at least, explain - why evil happens. "It's not their fault," someone told me the other day. "These bad people are brainwashed... and they live in dire circumstance; that's all." But if it isn't 'their fault', then whose fault is it? And can that possibly justify their evil?

It is thus high time we stop offering excuses for these evil perpetrators. Evil is not a relative force; evil is absolute, and it must be treated as such. For if we cannot do so, with utmost clarity, how will we ever be able to stand up to it to ensure that good ultimately triumphs?

But beyond "seeing" and recognizing the evil curses of our world, we must also respond to them with unwavering action.

It is our hope that our world's governments and leaders will do what they can to combat this horrific new wave of evil. But our response must be more personal. And whilst some choose to speak "out," it would behoove us to, first and foremost, speak "in" and fill our minds, our hearts, and the walls of our homes, with words and actions of goodness.

We can "go out," make noise and protest all sorts of forces, from political to philosophical. But it would better serve us and our world if we first "go in," and with the silent music of love, educate our families, our friends, our neighbors, our communities, and even our influential "connections," with the eternal values of our Torah and its commandments.

This is a quiet heroism - there are no flamboyant shows and loud shouts, no Facebook rants and dramatic gestures that capture attention. For it is not enough to focus on that which we are fighting against; we must also know that which we are fighting for. I am not so naïve as to believe that good deeds alone will eradicate evil from the world. But we can, and ought to, shape the world - the world in which we live - by our actions.

In 1948, just three years following the Holocaust, Chaim Weizmann, the first president of the State of Israel broadcasted a famous call to Jews worldwide: "After Hitler murdered a third of the Jewish nation, it is the foremost duty of every Jew to be a 'third more' Jewish. Please, I beg every Jew in the world, be a 'third more' Jewish. Triple your prayers, triple your good deeds, and make up for the third of our nation that was so brutally decimated."

Similarly, after witnessing such evil among us, we must do everything in our power to increase our deeds of goodness and holiness, from prayer to charity, from lighting Shabbat candles every Friday, to doing a stranger a favor, from Torah study to lending a helping hand, from eradicating gossip from our midst to infusing our social circles with words of kindness, and positive influence.

Let us partner with God, and create new Divine blessings in our world, for all humanity, and for all future generations, to "see,” today, and every day.

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