On Thursday, March 21, a few hundred community members gathered together at Refuge Coffee Co. in Clarkston to show support, care and solidarity for the Muslim and Refugee community of Atlanta in the aftermath of the shooting at two Masjids in New Zealand. Our own Rabbi Rosenthal was invited to join Rabbi Joshua Lesser, Atlanta's Ambassador General from New Zealand, and other leaders from various faith communities (Muslim, Buddhist, Kurdish, Christian and more) and was asked to share a vision of unity. We have included a video and transcript of his words to the community. As time offers its power of healing we pray that our community can walk with others towards a future of peace, understanding and unity.
New Zealand Vigil – A Vision of Unity
By Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal
March 21, 2019
Refuge Coffee Co., Clarkston GA
I want to share with you a vision of unity. When God set out to create the universe, HaKadosh Barachu, the Holy one of Blessing, did so by dividing not by unifying. God created the heavens AND the earth. Light AND darkness, the waters and the dry land, trees and grasses that grow from the ground, each of its own kind. Animals, some that fly and other that roam, some that swim while others swarm. Each step of the way, each act of division, we read, "Va'yar Elohim Key Tov" – And God saw that it was good.
Our goodness doesn't come from our similarities, rather, they come from our differences. What makes us good is by being superior over the other but in our differing reflection towards one another. Only when we are able to see and celebrate, only when we are able to embrace and cherish our differences as good, are we truly acting in God's ways; are we truly living in God's world.
Our sacred story of creation wants us to know that Goodness isn't found in hierarchy – one thing created better than the one before it. Instead, goodness is found when we stand in loving and supportive reflection of the other. The light is only bright when there is darkness. The heavens are only suspended when they allowed to hover over the earth. Trees do not grow tall unless the grass grows over their shadow. The birds only fly through the sky as long as there are herds that run across the valleys and the plains.
Goodness is never found in the absence of the other and goodness is never the opposite or in opposition of the other. Goodness can only exist in the reflection of goodness within those who are not us.
One of the many tragedies that took place in New Zealand was that a man entered into God's world and extinguished the goodness that was inside of him. 50 points of light and love that were within his own soul, there for him to find as Goodness in this world, were cast out in his own soul. Do not think that he destroyed the goodness and the life that was in each of the 50 souls that departed our earth. He did not have the power to do that. His victims never gave him permission to do that. Our gathering right here and right now, thousands of miles away from his crime is proof that those 50 souls still matter and are still considered part of God's goodness in the world.
One of the tragedies is that he extinguished the goodness from his own soul – The Goodness of Hosne Ara Parvin (42 years) old, she was the goodness that he could have found. Naeem Rashid and his twenty-one-year-old son, Talha Naeem, they were goodness that he could have found. Mucad Ibrahim, three years old, he was goodness he could have found. But now all that goodness has left his soul and is now embedded within ours. What are we going to do with it? My vision of unity is that we dedicate more of our time to seeing the goodness in each other. We spend more of our time in each other's sight so that we can truly see God's world as it was created – Good – with all our differences.
Peace be unto you! – Shalom Alechem