How do we Respond?
Like many of you, I just wondered while watching yesterday’s news of one man mowing down eight innocent people in New York City, how a human being might be convinced that this is the desire of his God, and rewards await in heaven for this horrible deed. While I do not have any statistics to prove the accuracy of this, I have heard it said on more than one occasion that more people have died on this planet in the name of religion than any other cause. Even if it were not true, that anyone should die because of his or her beliefs, or because the beliefs of their murderer compel them to do so, this certainly causes us to wonder of the true purpose of religion to humanity. During morning minyan today, my prayers to God sought reassurance, and I found some comfort, as I frequently do, in the recitation of Psalms. Throughout the ages, Jews have turned to Psalms in times of need. Below is Psalm 94 that we recited in morning services throughout the world today:
God of retribution! Adonai, God of retribution appear.
Judge of the earth, punish the arrogant as they deserve. How long, Adonai, how long shall the wicked exult? Swaggering, boasting, they exude arrogance.
They crush your people, Adonai, and oppress Your own. Widows and strangers, they slay; orphans they murder.
They say, “Adonai does not see, the God of Jacob pays no heed.”
Be sage, you simpletons, when will you fools be wise? Surely the One who shapes the ear can hear. Surely the One who forms the eye can see.
Surely God who disciplines nations will chastise, teaching mortals to understand. Adonai knows human schemes, how futile they are.
Blessed are those whom God disciplines and teaches Torah, training them to wait calmly in adversity until a pit be dug for the wicked.
Adonai will not abandon His people; God will not forsake His very own. Justice will return to the righteous; all the upright in heart will strive for it.
Who will stand up for me against the ungodly? Who will take my part against evildoers?
Were it not for God’s help, I would be in my grave. When my foot slips, Your love, Adonai, supports me. When I am filled with cares, Your comfort soothes my soul.
Are you allied with seats of wickedness, with those who frame injustice by statute? They conspire against the righteous, they condemn the innocent to death.
Adonai is my refuge; my God is my sheltering Rock.
God will repay them for their wickedness and destroy them with their own evil. Adonai our God will destroy them.
May God be a source of comfort to those who mourn, a source of healing to the injured, and a source of strength to all of us. You who makes peace in the heavens, cause peace to arise amongst all the inhabitants of this planet. Amen.