Meet Rabbi Noah Chertkoff, Congregation Shalom's Senior Rabbi.
A Message from Rabbi Noah
February 14, 2018
During moments of national tragedy that seem to occur with growing frequency we turn to sources of comfort. We are all in need of comfort today. However, the more these events take place; the more clergy are called upon to deliver comforting words, then the more these words will ring hollow and trite.
I love our community, our nation and our common humanity. I love my children and your children and the children of people who I have never met. I love my neighbor, not just because I'm obligated by our tradition to do so, I love them because in their faces I see a reflection of the divine. It's because I love my neighbor that I am compelled to not only offer comforting words. In fact there would be little difference from what I wrote after the Las Vegas shooting or the mass tragedies that occurred before.
We must all take meaningful action to stem the seemingly insurmountable epidemic of mass shootings that has stricken our nation. We have many responsible gun owners in our congregation. We also have many who would never touch a gun let alone condone its use. I know that all of you are united in viewing the events in Florida with horror. I'm certain that all of you agree that these senseless tragedies tear at the fabric of our society and our common humanity.
Now, more than ever, we must unify around what we agree upon. We cannot continue without acknowledging that there is a problem.
The Hebrew prophets spoke with a moral voice. They were not merely foretellers, predicting outcomes; they were forth tellers, calling on our society to move beyond the often intractable and seemingly insurmountable challenges of their day. Ezekiel spoke with a moral voice when called upon by God to tell us "Repent, and turn back from your fetishes and turn your minds away from all your abominations."
We live in a culture that fetishizes the gun. The gun is an inanimate object, seemingly worshiped for its supposed magical powers or because it is considered to be inhabited by a spirit. An object that can kill is not a guarantor of freedom and yet it is glorified as being a shining emblem of the spirit of liberty. It's not democrats or republicans that give the gun its ultimate power. We do. The magic comes from the portrayal of the gun in Hollywood. It comes from the television and toys designed for children. It comes from a history that glorifies violence over the grand idea of democracy and the enlightenment. It wasn't just bombs bursting in air that brought us freedom.
We have a right to freedom. We have a right to be free from fear when we attend a concert, send our children to school, go to work, and drive down the highway. If there are sensible regulations and restrictions that can help prevent tragedies such as these from occurring then you are obligated to help pursue them.
I am asking you to be fearless in pursuing these freedoms. Fearless, when you engage in conversation. Fearless, when you challenge your own assertions. Fearless, when approaching elected officials to represent your interests.
Wisconsin has an organization known as WAVE. Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort Educational Fund. Wave is a statewide grassroots organization dedicated to preventing gun violence, injuries and deaths through education and advocacy. Their website has a sign up that can help you stay informed and help you advocate for your beliefs. https://waveedfund.org/
Though the words are difficult let me echo the prayer that we posted after the Las Vegas shooting. Perhaps the repetition of these words can convey the profound sadness we feel experiencing this form tragedy once again:
God of love and shelter, grant a perfect rest under Your sukkah of peace to the precious and dear souls in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School whose lives were cut off by violence. May their souls be bound up in the bonds of everlasting life and may they rest in peace.
Remember the families and friends of all the dead and the wounded among the high school students and teachers and throughout the United States. Remember them with comfort and consolation.
Grant them Your protection, Your wholeness and healing.
Heavenly Guide, put an end to anger, hatred and fear and lead us to a time when no one will suffer at the hand of another speedily and in our day.
Please know that your clergy are all available to you should you need to talk or cry and be held up in the coming period of grief.
Rabbi Noah Chertkoff