February 17, 2023

As we enter Shabbat this week, our hearts are with the Michigan State University community as they continue to recover in the aftermath of the tragic mass shooting in their student center and an academic building. When mass shootings happen, they seem like they are in a far-off place. This one, however, hits close to home as I know of at least five parents whose children were sheltering in place on Monday evening. On Tuesday, I came to realize that there are Michigan State freshman who survived the Oxford HS mass shooting in November of 2021. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families, and we continue to pray for healing of those who were wounded and others who were traumatized after sheltering in place.

I read one reflection from a student who has a few months left before graduating. She questioned the American school system and how she has had to fear for her life and even pondered if she would make it through school without this happening to her. I wish for her that she had made it. Why is it that we are now forced to think about escape roots and exit plans? Most of us didn’t grow up that way and yet here we are.

As a society, we have grown numb to the repeated shootings that take place in academic settings and we continue to wonder why they keep happening. We tell ourselves it won’t happen to us, and we prepare in case it does.

I connected with parents who have a child at Michigan St. Grateful their child was alive; they were so excited for her to come home. They just wanted to hug her. It was probably the tightest hug they have ever shared.

With these moments overwhelmed by sadness and loneliness, I turn to the Psalms and in this moment in particular Psalm 34. “The Eternal One is close to the brokenhearted, God comforts those crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:19) In the aftermath of shootings, we read about the community coming together to support one another, to lift each other up. The lesson here is much like that taught by the rabbis, who taught us that when the community suffers, we do not return home to eat, drink, and rejoice (Talmud Taanit 11b). It is our responsibility to engage with each other and do whatever we can to support those who are suffering. We find God’s presence in those moments when we shine a light through the darkness of evil. Let us keep the memories of Arielle Anderson, Alexandria Verner, and Brian Fraser in our hearts. May their memories be for a blessing.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Rick Kellner