Seven Orthodox congregations held a Psalms recital, Oct. 31, at Congregation Zera Abraham, in the aftermath of the murder of 11 Jews at Tree of Life congregation in Pittsburgh, Oct. 27, 2018.
The sponsoring congregations were Aish Denver, Bais Menachem, DAT Minyan, EDOS, Kehilas Bais Yisrael, Ohr Avner and Zera Abraham.
Each line of Psalms 13, 70, 83, 120, 121, 125, 128, 130 and 142 was recited responsively, in a loud and mournful tune, led by Rabbi Shimshon Rubin, dorm counselor at Yeshiva Torah Chaim.
Zera Abraham was filled.
The event was introduced by Rabbi Tzvi Steinberg, spiritual leader of Zera Abraham. The main message was delivered by Rabbi Yaakov Meyer, spiritual leader of Aish Denver.
Rabbi Steinberg thanked the public officials in attendance, including the district police chief, the district’s City Councilman Rafael Espinoza and former Denver Auditor Dennis Gallagher, who was visibly shaken by the turn of events.
“We are here to underscore that each of us has an inextricable link to the other,” said Rabbi Steinberg, and thus each can find solace through the other.
“We’re thinking of the families who go home and see the empty spot.”
“Don’t we feel a togetherness? Must it take my brother to be shot for me to feel love for that brother? Do we need this kind of tragedy for us to get together? Wouldn’t it be wonderful for us to get together again to celebrate, for example, advancement in Torah study, or to daven together?
“Let us celebrate that we are going to pray together and implore Hashem for mercy.”
Rabbi Meyer, who said he was inadequate to the task at hand, hoped that his words would serve as a merit for the dead and a healing for the wounded.
Rabbi Meyer addressed five main themes: fear, questions, the defeat of anti-Semitism, solidarity and martyrdom.
“Evil is out there. But for something like this to happen in America is scary.
“When Psalm 23 says ‘I shall fear no evil . . . ’ it doesn’t mean that I’m not shaken up. But there is a G-d Who runs the world. ‘ . . . because You are with me.” Knowing there is a Master of the Universe give comfort.
“Which doesn’t mean there is no pain.
“We give gratitude, as in Psalm 120, and we cry out for Divine help, as in Psalm 20 — both at the same time.”
“We have to be prepared for difficult challenges — they are part of life. Where do I find my strength? You have to be attached to the source.
“Someone who feels detached can only have questions. We must prepare the vessels (kelim) through our observance of Torah, for without them there is no place for the blessings to fall.”
“There is nothing we can do when Jews are hated just because we are Jews. Only G-d can take care of that, as it says, ‘I shall surely erase the memory of Amalek from under the heavens’ (Exodus 17:14).
“But if Jewish behavior is lacking — dishonest business practices, how we talk, if we drive improperly — no one should ever point to us and say: Look how the Jews behave. That kind of anti-Semitism we are obligated to wipe out, as it says, ‘You shall wipe out he memory of Amalek from under the heaven’ (Deut. 25:19).
“The street, The media. The phone. Everything out there has changed the way we talk. Obscenities are not just what’s called four-letter words.
“The rhetoric is so horrible. Don’t call names.”
“We have friends out there who are public officials. We have to treat them with love and respect, and go out of our way to express our appreciation.”
“Those Jews brutally killed. What is their fate? Even if they are killed without choice, they are kedoshim, holy martyrs. The holy martyrs who died in Pittsburgh didn’t have a choice. But they died because they were Jews. They are martyrs.
“Rabbi Noach Weinberg (the founder of Aish HaTorah internationally) always used to say: Figure out what you’re willing to die for, then live for it. You die only once. But to pray every day, not to slander people, to work on mitzvos, to work on our character traits — live for this.
“This isn’t a comfort for what happened. The pain is too raw. But we must work on ourselves.”