"Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." (MLK, 1963)
How do we respond to the tragedy in Newtown last week? The loss of lives remains unfathomable and filled with grief. Twenty children and six adults killed and families, communities and our nation awash in sadness. We cry and mourn. We offer comfort. We struggle to find a message.
Do we need more legislation for gun control, more understanding for mental health illnesses, and better security at schools? I do not have the answers, and they are complex. Yet, we can respond in a meaningful way. We need not wait for a commission or others to provide a path forward.
What can we do?
We can turn darkness into light. The response to the tragedy is not around us but inside of us.
I attended the funeral this week for Noah Pozner, of blessed memory. The deep pain was palpable, and immense loss of a bright future and infinite potential seared the gathering as the song "Child of Mine" by Carole King was played and closed the service.
Yet, the family and rabbi offered words of comfort and hope. Noah's brother concluded his remarks with the words, "We lost a brother ... but we gained a guardian angel." In reflecting on these words, I can relate personally. My mother died suddenly from an aneurysm at the young age of 44, leaving a husband and six children. Over the years, I truly feel my mother's presence as a muse in my life and an angel watching over me.
Yet her loss, as I know Noah's will, as well as the death of so many loved ones, must inspire us to become angels on earth. An angel is not only a heavenly being but an agent with a holy and sacred task. No place, time or encounter is random. In the thousands of moments each day, we are called to sanctify our lives and serve as the angel to embody and spread some light to the world.
Whether it's walking down the street and offering a smile and a simple "good morning," or anonymously donating groceries to a family, the opportunities to be angelic are infinite. Every encounter with another human being offers a window into eternity. We may alter a life more often than we expect, and we may never yet know our impact. In this spirit, Ann Curry launched 26 acts of kindness, and our synagogue, Agudath Sholom in Stamford, Conn. is embarking on Operation Light on Dec. 25 and serving the homeless in Stamford and joining IsraAid in Breezy Point to rebuild homes post-Hurricane Sandy.
We are all angels.
Recently, I learned the impact of a few words I posed to a congregant over seven years ago. This past summer, we celebrated the completion of the entire Talmud, the Jewish work of wisdom, over a 7.5-year cycle. You may have read about the stadium at Met Life. On the Saturday following the event, we heard testimonials from a few of our congregants, men and women, career people who completed the cycle. They shared their journeys. One of them turned to me in front of hundreds of people and remarked that when I met with him for the first time I asked him if he set aside time for daily study. The question bothered him, stirred within him and ultimately was one of the motivators for him to embark on a study cycle that transformed his life.
One question. I had no idea of my impact. Imagine if we harnessed the opportunities every day to touch people's lives.
We are angels on earth who touch and are touched. In a time of darkness, we can be the vehicle for light. Intuitively, every one of us wants to leave the world a better and brighter place. Those that died last week live in us and through us. If we live today with this mission and act on its message, we will truly be the angels who leave footprints on earth now and forever.
For more by Rabbi Daniel Cohen, click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.