In these days after Yom Kippur and before Sukkot, our thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends and communities of those who died and were injured in the shooting at a concert in Las Vegas on Sunday evening. We reach out to our colleague, Rabbi Malcolm Cohen, a graduate of Leo Baeck College, his family and congregation, Temple Sinai of Las Vegas, undoubtedly affected by such a major tragedy.
How can we allow ourselves to rejoice on our festival when this latest atrocity in the United States has brought unutterable heartbreak to so many families and individuals?
That is the question that is addressed to all of us, whether we are close to such tragic events or far away from them? The guilt of being a survivor, of escaping such acts of violence and barbarism, I imagine, afflicts us all. But we do not live in perpetual darkness; sooner or later, night passes, dawn comes gradually, a thin line on a violet horizon, imperceptibly turning into daylight.
Sukkot helps us to hold two lessons in our hands: that of the transience of human life and that of gratitude. The wretchedness of grief is a response to loss in our lives – the little and great losses that diminish a little bit of us each day. But gratitude is the act of restoration to the soul – gratitude for the fruits of the land, celebrated at Sukkot; gratitude for those small, but significant symbols of human love and companionship that help to keep alive our faith in the goodness of humanity and in the infinite compassion of an Eternal Presence.