Saturday, April 01, 2006

An Early, Violent Death

This past week was full of emotion and grief, as a young family member was killed in the Seattle shootings last Saturday. My special cousin lost her son, and the family has rallied around her, as they did during his short life. Rabbi Ted Falcon, BetAlef Meditational Synagogue in Seattle, WA. had done the boy's Bar Mitzvah and rose to the challenge of saying something comforting at the funeral. His words were healing, while addressing the difficult, unexpected way that this life ended.
Looking for ways to cope with this as I go on with my life, forever changed by this, I found Rabbi Falcon's Weekly Letter to his congregation. He has summarized his thoughts, feelings and sadness so well that I just have to cut and paste an excerpt below. His weekly writings can be found at and I will be reading them from now on. I want to thank him for writing something so poignant, something I will be reading over and over again as I sort out my own feelings.

from Rabbi Ted FalconTorah Portion for the week of March 26 – April 1,2006: Vayikra (Leviticus 1:1 – 5:26)
" It’s been a heavy week for me and for many. A very special young man whose Bar Mitzvah I had conducted eight years ago was among the seven killed in last Saturday’s shooting here in Seattle. Justin Schwartz’s funeral was Tuesday, but the weight of the event has remained with me. We are all aware that we live in a terribly violent world, but when that violence claims those we know personally, the experience is jarring,and the tearing affects us more sharply. Over these days, I have experienced a growing discomfort, and I knew this Weekly Focus had to waituntil I could get a handle on it. This morning it found me. What the moment of Justin’s death revealed to me is the degree to which I had been keeping the world’s pain at a distance. In order to go about my business, I had closed myself off from the daily anguish. There had just been too much for me. Perhaps it was Katrina’s legacy, perhaps the escalating deathsin Iraq, perhaps the genocide in Darfur – and these are just a few of the deep pockets of pain, loss, andgrief that are exploding in our world – at some pointI turned away. Justin’s death, at 22, was the event that opened me towhat I had been hiding from, to what I had beenavoiding. The truth is, we cannot avoid one feelingwithout inhibiting all feelings; we cannot depress ouravailability for pain without depressing ouravailability for rejoicing. In this week of opening, it is mostly the pain I amexperiencing. But I know that my willingness to meetgrief will serve me as a willingness to meet joy.Perhaps that will find me this Shabbat. Perhaps I willbe ready for it...
The entire sacrificial system in the ancient days was created as a means to draw near to God. Today, we sacrifice in other ways, and draw near toGod through prayer, through meditation, through study,and through acts of lovingkindness. Yet with so manymaking such great sacrifices these days, one wonders whether those, too, can serve to draw us near. Can we sacrifice the shells we have constructed around our hearts to protect us from the pain that is all around us? Can we sacrifice our turning away in favor of standing firm in the face of loss? Can we sacrifice our separation from each other? Can we sacrifice ouranger? Can we, finally, sacrifice our violence? All these sacrifices will draw us nearer to the Source of our Being. It may help each of us to consider what we need to sacrifice in order to step back into the orld where we might care for ourselves and for each other more abundantly." ......

I wish my cousin and her family peace. I wish that gun control could prevent such needless deaths.