From the Pulpit: After Poway – Defeat evil through acts of kindness

By Rabbi Menachem Blum, Ottawa Torah Centre Chabad

I write these lines as I am trying to process the horrific attack on the last day of Passover, when an individual attacked the Chabad of Poway Synagogue killing Lori Gilbert-Kaye OB”M and wounding three, including the congregation’s rabbi, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein. As a Chabad representative in Ottawa, I am humbled by and grateful for the kind and supportive words so many people in our community have shared with us.

There’s no way that our minds can deal with so much pain and suffering. We do not begin to understand God’s ways; we know that we are not expected to. However, we do know that it is precisely in a time like this that we must affirm our faith and resolutely increase our actions of goodness and kindness.

We just need to look at Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein who, with fingers blown up, stood on a chair and addressed the panicked congregation in the minutes after the shooting. Imagine, a wounded rabbi whose congregation was struck by terror, who lost a close friend, supporter and congregant, became a voice of courage and hope. Instead of surrendering to fear and grief, he comforted his people. What happened over the next few days is extraordinary. With his missing finger, this rabbi has continued to share his inspirational message with millions of people; to discover God and to realize that every human being is created in the image of God.

This is the message that my beloved teacher, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson OB”M, would share in times like these. He would encourage us not to lose it, but rather to add on more light to dispel the great darkness. The Rebbe would always emphasize that we cannot allow these terrorists to win. If their desire is to diminish the Jewish people and Judaism we must redouble our efforts and do even more.

The Rebbe taught us that during a time of intense sorrow, we must turn our pain into gain. We need to turn grief into action. We will defeat evil and terrorism through acts of goodness and kindness. Where terrorists hope to create fear and hatred, we need to create love and joy. Wanton hate must be countered with wanton love.

As Rabbi Goldstein wrote in the New York Times (“A Terrorist Tried to Kill Me Because I Am a Jew. I Will Never Back Down,” April 29, 2019): “From here on in I am going to be more brazen. I am going to be even more proud about walking down the street wearing my tzitzit and kippah, acknowledging God’s presence. And I’m going to use my voice until I am hoarse to urge my fellow Jews to do Jewish. To light candles before Shabbat. To put up mezuzahs on their doorposts. To do acts of kindness. And to show up in synagogue – especially this coming Shabbat.”

We can’t allow our haters to win. In the presence of such terror, we must be more Jewish! We need to get more involved in Judaism. We need to come to shul more often and embrace more Yiddishkeit in our lives. We need to increase in goodness and kindness and fill the world with love, or as Rabbi Goldstein, referring to the Rebbe’s teaching, put it, “a little light dispels a lot of darkness.”

A lot of light dispels even more darkness.