Much to the chagrin of both of our families, there was a time when Devorah and I were looking to open up a Chabad House where the prospect of moving to Christchurch New Zealand( or ChaCha as the Jews call it) was on the table. We would have served the small Jewish community there as well as the Jewish population at the university located in that city. Obviously the Divine cards were dealt differently and we ended up in our lovely little shtetl of Oberlin, but since we thought about it quite seriously we’ve always felt a special connection to the Kiwis.
Like many of you, our hearts sunk as the news broke of the terrorist attack that took place earlier today in two mosques killing nearly 50 people and injuring dozens more. There are unfortunately countless attacks that take place in our world on a regular basis, but this one hit home in a different way for some reason. Upon reflection I believe that this one hurt just a little more because it was an attack on people of a particular religion and killed while in worship in their sacred space, ringing eerily similar to the attacks in Pittsburgh not so long ago. No the victims were not Jewish, they were Muslim, and our brothers and sisters in humanity and our not so distant cousin, this one feels oddly personal.
In our Chabad House we often talk about wearing “G-d glasses”, that is honing our spiritual conciseness to recognize the Divine energy that permeates our existence, and it also means allowing G-d and G-dliness into our space. It means that symbols of the Divine, and outwardly religious people of our own faith and of others, should not frighten us, rather inspire us. I recall back the the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s activism to include a moment of silence in public schools. The Rebbe wanted to allow for students to have a moment of mindfulness and to have the opportunity to start their school day with a moment of G-d conciseness, to shape the rest of their experiences for the day. The Rebbe was not pushing a Jewish agenda, Jewish prayer, or only looking to benefit the Jews within the school system, rather an overall benefit to the spiritual well-being of the entierty of the student body.
Today the Muslim community was attacked, mourning is not enough, we must acknowledge that this attack was borne from the same fanaticism and nationalistic jingoism that fueled the Pittsburgh attacks. We must take an active role in supporting our cousins in their time of need, and we must spring into action by filling our world with more acts of G-dliness and holiness. And we should make those actions public, let us not fight this fight in the privacy of our own homes or houses of worship, but wear our spiritual identities on our sleeve (or heads) let us not be satisfied with our own individual spiritual path, but help tend to the spiritual path of others with confidence and pride. As my holy Rebbe taught if you know the letter aleph, then teach the letter aleph, don’t keep it all for yourself.