Tree of Life (Vigil in the Aftermath of the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Shooting)

Posted on October 29, 2018

by Rabbi Jordi Schuster Battis

In our ark, behind me here, are our precious Torah scrolls. Each one contains the five books of Moses, the most precious and ancient stories of our tradition, written by hand, with intention, and with love. We call our Torah our tree of life, because the stories and obligations it contains, and our interpretations of them through the ages, instruct us over and over again: We were made B’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God; therefore, it is our job to recognize the innate value of every other human being; We were strangers in the land of Egypt, therefore, it is our job to take care of one another and of strangers wherever they may be. Love your neighbor as yourself. The rest is commentary. At the heart of Torah is the message: Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad. Hear O Israel—my people—Adonai is our God, Adonai is One. If God is One, and we were made in God’s image, then our job is to be One. It is our holy responsibility to see the goodness in each other, the humanity in each other, the divine spark of life in each other, and to honor it, to cherish it, to connect it to our own, to shine brighter, to hold it up and proclaim: Hear this, O my people, we are here to be One. We are here to bring light. We are here to honor each other— and the image of God in one another. Look at this room. With all of us here together, from across our Jewish community, from across our faith communities, from across our family communities, and our Metrowest Boston communities With all of our holy sadness—and very holy anger. We know we have not been alone in being targeted for what we believe or for who we are. We stand with our brothers and sisters, across races and religions, across genders and sexualities, across beliefs and borders— because when one of us is targeted, we all are targeted. When the humanity of one of us is demeaned and devalued, we are all demeaned and devalued. We walk across deserts with others, because we are one. We fight for each other, and with each other, because we are one. When one life is saved, an entire world is saved. When one life is taken.… Our world is destroyed. We are standing here together to say: Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu. Show your love with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might. And, teach these words to your children. We teach our children this night, we say to each other this night— To the world and to our God: That we hold fast to our Tree of Life. Its paths are goodness and righteousness and peace.