Among the Mourners of Zion

Among the Mourners of Zion
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My heart is just beyond broken for the loss for our brothers and sisters Yosef Salomon, 70, and his two children Chaya Salomon, 46, and Elad Salomon, 36, murdered this past Friday night in their home while celebrating the birth of a new grandchild.

Yesterday, I visited the Salomon’s Tent of Mourning in Elad, Israel, where many, many people are in shock and mourning. Tears streaming down my face, barely able to speak, I will never forget that wretched, awful day.

I sat with Yosef's son, whose baby was born last week. This new father was still wearing the hospital bracelet, and his son's bris will take place during Shiva. As it turns out, this young man has worked at Camp Ramah in the Poconos, and had friends in common with some of the rabbis with whom I'm traveling. All I can see in my mind's eye is his sad eyes. Some of these words were written before the visit took place, and all of them will surely be inadequate now, as they would even more surely had been had I not stepped into that sad, sad space.

Regardless of any political religious differences I might have with those gathered, or with this devastated family, we sat with them today because, as my dear friend and colleague, Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove of Park Avenue Synagogue, put it: this is what Jews do when one of us experiences a loss. This is what rabbis do.

When people there asked who we were, I cannot express how moved they were to know that we, a group of female and male American Rabbis, were on a mission, and we knew we needed to pay a shiva visit. The sense of family was visceral and deep.

And: The slaughter of a Jewish family at their own Shabbat table is an unutterable act of evil, as would be any act of terror against any family of any kind in their home. Or anyone. Or anywhere. Terrorism is beyond rationalizing. Murder is not contextualizable. To frame the murders of the Salomons as understandable in any way, as some might be inclined to do, is not only insensitive in the moment, but an abdication of a moral sensibility. This loss is trauma born of evil. Incomprehensible.

As we left the Mourners' Tent, a Hareidi (Ultra-Orthodox) man asked who we were. I quietly answered, and then said "Ein Milim (there are no words)." He looked into my eyes and said the same. Another young man, learning that I was from the San Francisco area asked me what I thought about the Temple Mount. I answered, "That's not why we're here. We're here to be together." We met eyes, very sad eyes, and nodded to each other.

What is my responsibility right now, as a Progressive American Rabbi, as a Jew, as a human being?

My responsibility is to show up in this moment of shock and loss, as I would for a member of my home synagogue with whom I disagree. I do not fulfill mitzvot (commandments) only for people with whom I agree. Jewish tradition brings us into each other's lives, binds Jewish to each other and to the world. It reminds us that the most important thing we can do in dark, sad moments is actually quite simple: show up.

A related teaching: The mitzvah of visiting a shiva (mourning) home and serve as a comforter includes the tradition of remaining silent. We are not there to talk or socialize. All conversation in a shiva home is meant to be about the person or people who have died.

And so, in this spirit, I offered my tears and quiet presence for the tragedy visited upon the Salomon family. I and my rabbinic colleagues with whom I've been traveling in Israel on the Progressive Rabbinic Mission sponsored by AIPAC's education foundation showed up and offered comfort. This is what rabbis do. This is what family does. We show up. Broken. Together.

May the Holy One comfort the Salomon family, their community, and all of us, among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

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