Fall is here with spooky Halloween decorations popping up like zombies from a graveyard. My great-nephews have been experimenting with making the proper type of gauze-ghost to hang from trees, drifting and shifting on breezes and setting off the hoot owl motion detector to scare passersby and the occasional raccoon.
It is a joy to watch the thought and care that goes into so many Halloween yards and costumes.
But as we invest time and thought in these activities in York County, the world beyond our ZIP codes seems be spinning an even crazier and more frightening web of violence. The news is filled with stories of people are stabbing others for no other reason than religion, and shooting others in rage for even less obvious causes.
Yes, I am writing about the uprising in Israel, and the shootings in Oregon and whatever other horrific killings may or may not have made the news recently. People are walking onto public transportation and stabbing people because their dress marks them out, walking into a prayer meeting or a classroom, deliberately setting ONE person aside as a witness, then shooting the rest.
The amount of pain and isolation from the community that would lead someone to cease valuing a human life is beyond my comprehension. I pray that those who view anger, murder and suicide as the only balm to their pain may find something gentler and stronger, in their community and in their faith.
How could we be part of that community?
We may not be able to change an entire generation’s education of hate. We may not be able to find and bring to a better place all of the isolated people who live among us. But we can still reach out individually. We can do this with humanity and kindness, built on foundation of faith.
In Judaism there is a core belief that preservation of life is paramount. Saving life takes precedence over all the other commandments. To save a life is to save a world, as by saving that individual, you have preserved him, and his or her descendants, who may contribute much to the betterment of our world. And on the flip side, to take a life is to murder a world, removing the potential of the good things that person’s family will never get to do.
This is where that mindfulness of our daily actions comes to the forefront. As difficult as it can be, sometimes we should just pause a moment and mentally step away from the busyness of a task or intensity of a moment. As Rabbi Brad Hirschfeld wrote a couple years ago, “you don’t have to wrong for me to be right.” If we are so chained to our to-do lists that we forget that, what other opportunities to make the moment better might we be missing?
Just take a breath. And ask ourselves, what are my real priorities, who am I and what do I believe in? Are my actions, right now, worthy of my beliefs?
I do believe that faith can be big enough, and confident enough to allow for different opinions, various approaches and respectful disagreement. It does not need to dissolve into hurtful words or violence. There is no shame if you need to step away for a moment to remind yourself of that.
There is such a miracle at just being alive. Being part of a community that can share thoughts openly and compare different traditions is an added blessing. Remembering that foundation and then reaching out to others with the capacity to listen and desire to assist can start a healing process.
Yes, there is pain in our world, and seemingly senseless violence. With a mindful faith, we can work to reduce it.
Edie Yakutis represents Temple Solel in Fort Mill: firstname.lastname@example.org @EdieYakutis