I welcome you into this sacred space, this sanctuary for the soul, for this gathering of memory, faith and hope—as we inscribe upon our hearts the names of the victims of senseless hatred and violence—as we seek a way forward through this time of tears and tragedy—as we dedicate our lives, body and soul, to reclaim this nation from the depths of despair, division and demonization.
I am profoundly grateful for this outpouring of love and friendship, support and resolve that we Jews across this nation have felt in the last 48 hours. We cherish the blessings of your presence, as you stand with us in this terrible moment, as 1 we will continue to stand with the victimized, the vulnerable and the suffering amongst us.
Just a few weeks ago at our High Holidays, we uttered the Unetane Tokef liturgy, a recognition of the tenuousness of life that envisions our fate in the coming year with the words: Who shall live and who shall die. In one way, it is a concession to the inevitability of tragedy, grief and loss.
But the final words of the litany inspire and empower us: Through t’fillah/sincere prayer, through teshuvah/an embrace of change through repentance, and through tzedakah/righteous giving to those in need, the harshness of that decree is mitigated, made reconcilable to life and the future. We cannot choose our fate, but we can 2 choose how we respond, what we do, who we are, and who we strive to be.
And so tonight we mourn, and in the days ahead we will arise from this dark place of loss and fear, bearing the light of goodness, justice and truth that is our holy work as Jews and our concerted destiny as Americans.
– Rabbi Daniel Weiner