This could have been a post about terror, or hatred. It could have been a post about international politics and religion. But for the sake of my own spirit's health, it is a post about two women facing the news of a tragedy across an ocean and across thousands of miles.
A number of years ago (long story) I hired a "prayer agent" in Israel. I actually paid someone to pray for me at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. The proceeds of my fee to this not-for-profit organization went to a known and legitimate charitable cause. This may sound strange to you, and at times it sounds strange to me, but there you have it.
It took some amount of discussion to get this arranged, and before I knew it, the woman who would arrange for my proxy at the Wall and I were sharing personal stories back and forth. We felt a very quick connection spiritually, although she is a very Orthodox Jew and I am a very liberal Christian.
RR, as I will call her here, and I consider ourselves dear friends who have never met. We have bursts of email communication as the years go by. Something will occur in one of our lives, or one of our countries, and zing an email is sent and it feels as though no time has passed. We spend a fair amount of time (when we talk) talking about G-d.
Recent evens in Mumbai, particularly the slaughter in the Chabad House, had me angry and sad. I knew that RR would be feeling this. This was a deliberate attack on the small Jewish community in Mumbai.
"Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, the beloved directors of Chabad-Lubavitch of Mumbai, were killed during one of the worst terrorist attacks to strike India in recent memory," the Chabad's New York headquarters said. The Holtzbergs arrived in Mumbai in 2003 running a synagogue and Torah classes, and assisting Jewish tourists. Their 2 year old son was smuggled out of the center by a nanny during the assault, and is now with his maternal grandparents. Rivka Holtzberg was 6 months pregnant when she was killed.
Here we have another act of brutal hatred. And here, thousands of miles and an ocean apart, RR and I exchange emails about this. She says ..."I feel as if it happened to my right arm. I can't even go to the news channel anymore because just seeing the faces of those savages twists my stomach... Society scares me. All the more reason to increase the love and respect and honor we are trying to instill in our children. I pray that you are well!
We write wondering how this happens, about what is at the root of a terrorist act. We share an urge to increase the goodness in the world, leaving less chinks in the world by which evil can enter. We talk about fear, about not demonizing, about the need for justice.
And it takes a day for me to realize that this conversation took place between two women of different faiths in different lands who will likely never meet face to face, but who consider themselves spiritual soul sisters. Every time I "get that" it bowls me over. This is how global peace starts, I think. This is the kind of dialogue that we all keep saying we want -- and here I am, blessed by G-d enough to find myself in the thick of it. RR and I disagree some, but we get to the approximate same end point -- just by slightly different routes.
Jacqueline quotes Chabad's web site:
There are tears, pain, mourning and loss. There is hope, commitment and faith.
But there are no words.
Instead our actions must speak for each of us. The people that we help, the differences that we make, will testify to what we cannot verbalize. The goal of terror is to paralyze, to make us feel there is nothing we can change. We will now work all that more passionately to ensure that nothing will stop us from growing, from developing and creating.
We owe it to the victims—the more than 190 innocent victims, including six of our Jewish brothers and sisters: Gavriel and Rivky Holtzberg, directors of Chabad-Lubavitch of Mumbai; Rabbis Bentzion Chroman and Leibish Teitelbaum; Norma Schwartzblatt-Rabinowitz; and Yocheved Orpaz. May their righteous memory be for blessing.
In the name of all the 190 victims, we fuel our deeds with love.
Carmi describes sitting down for a Sabbath meal with his family and trying to explain Mumbai and the slaughter at the Chabad house to their children, who attend classes at their local Chabad here.
So as we sat around the table, listening to them recite the blessings, we realized how blessed we were to even have this moment. That no one came into our house this week and tore our world apart.
But just the fact that they could have. That it could happen here as easily as it happened in Mumbai, New York, London, Istanbul, Madrid, virtually every major centre across Europe and so many other places. It sent a chill down my spine. Tonight we had to explain to our kids that there are people out there who will hurt them because of who they are. And the refrains of "never again" once again seem to be falling on deaf ears.
There are no words to explain how sick it made me feel.
Leah aks that Psalms be spoken for all those who were killed in Mumbai.
There were more than just the Chabad victims, to be sure. But the image of an altruistic young family with one child and a pregnant wife slaughtered for no reason except their faith is a powerful icon that brings the savagery of terrorism into sharp focus. The image of the nanny smuggling the 2 year old to safety is equally powerful. That somehow life was saved in the midst of a bloodbath is also part of the image. Who lives, who dies -- when there is hatred behind a gun, it is a miracle that any life remains.
So there we were, sending each orther emails - my friend RR and I. From Massachusetts to Jerusalem, we were holding each other's hands via keyboards, praying for the dead and the living together, and vowing to increase what is good in the world however we can. It is about two women who believe that Love that can save the world, love that transcends boundaries.
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