One of the most beautiful ways I’ve heard Shabbat described is as a period of time when a person can live “as if all is right with the world.”
Shabbat begins just before sundown on Friday and ends at nightfall Saturday.
Although I am by no means an expert, I have been told that Shabbat is a time when observant Jews can put away the work and troubles of the week and instead focus on togetherness, family and good food.
The common greeting, Shabbat shalom, means “Sabbath peace” or “Peace be on you this day of rest.” One description states: “On this day of worship and reflection, may you find God’s peace from anything that may be disturbing you from this passing week, and as you reflect may you find peace with God if you offended Him, so that you go into the next week in peace.”
So it was during this time of peace that a man walked into the Tree of Life synagogue in the Jewish neighbourhood of Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh and proceeded to take lives, many of them elderly – grandmothers, grandfathers, some of them survivors of the Holocaust.
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“This is the most horrific crime scene I’ve seen in 22 years with the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” said a shaken FBI spokesperson. “Members of the Tree of Life synagogue conducting a peaceful service in their place of worship were brutally murdered by a gunman targeting them simply because of their faith.”
Prior to the killings, the man was reported to have expressed his disgust with a Jewish group’s assistance to refugees.
Pittsburgh is a long way away and the relationship with guns here is hugely different. But that doesn’t mean the country, or the community, is immune to hatred.
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Anti-semitism has existed for hundreds of years and tends to be cyclical in nature. Jews have been used as scapegoats, usually when economic downturns are in place or imminent. The working class is encouraged to fear and blame Jews rather than look at the system which is impoverishing them.
It’s no secret that many people are working harder for less money now while the one per cent gets richer.
South of the border we have seen fear and hatred being instilled and supported against Muslims, new immigrants, refugees, blacks, Indigenous people, gays and more.
The mood does not stop at the border. In Canada last year, a lone gunman opened fire in a mosque in Quebec, killing six and injuring 19. A trip to Facebook shows all variety of nastiness.
And next comes blaming the Jews. Divide and conquer.
The biggest enemy of this trend is connectedness, people learning about and listening to each other, standing up boldly for each other, linking arms and hearts, refusing unequivocally to fall into the trap of hatred.
We will all benefit.