What can I say that hasn’t already been said about the inhumanity of the senseless murders in Newtown?
The academics and forensic experts will seek to understand the circumstances of the murderer’s afflictions to, hopefully, prevent any future behaviors of a similar nature. That’s admirable, but leaves me wanting more. The terribly misguided have said that G-d abandoned the school because schools have abandoned G-d. This is a twisting of spirituality in the worst way.
My gut reaction is to seek revenge, a form of retributive justice – lex talionis – but there’s apparently no-one left in the wake of this tragedy that can, or even should, be made to pay a price; not the perpetrator nor, seemingly, any of his major, proximate influencers. And, of course, both Gandhi and Martin Luther King said, in effect, that taking an eye-for –an-eye would leave everyone blind.
Leviticus chapter 19, verses 17 and 18 state: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your fellow, but you shall not bear a sin on his account. You shall neither take revenge from nor bear a grudge against the members of your people; you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Others will say we must forgive the transgressor and move on. This seems counter-intuitive – if not premature – at best; or, more likely, naïve and oblivious. Simon Wiesenthal, in his extraordinary book, The Sunflower, solicits opinions about forgiveness and retribution against the Nazi murderers from scholars and philosophers and, in my opinion, correctly concludes that only those wronged have the right to forgive those who have wronged them. And, of course, those victims – like the victims in Newtown – no longer have a voice.
So, how do the families of the victims find peace? How does any rational person who knows this story find peace? My frustration over this point alone raises my anger. And my anger has no outlet. As I watch a heartbreaking story about one of the young victims, my anger transmutes to a profound sadness for all involved. Yet, it is insufficient to stop there.
I believe that the best any of us can hope to do is to pray that the innocents who lost their lives in Newtown be blessed by G-d with eternal peace, that the perpetrator receives his just reward – wherever his soul may be, that the families and friends of the victims find ways to go on, and that no-one – anywhere – will have to suffer such tragedy ever again.
A fitting and hopeful meditation may be the following Hebrew words, commonly found in our liturgy, including the Amidah (the central Jewish prayer), Kaddish and Birkat HaMazon. The Hebrew translates to “May G-d who makes peace in high places, make peace for us, for all Israel, and for all who dwell on earth”:
Oseh Shalom Bimromav, Hu Yaaseh Shalom, Aleinu V'al kol yisrael ve'al kol yoshvay tevel 6
And let us all say “Amen”.