Seize the Moment

By Rabbi Z. Ahron Grossbaum 

Katan Studios-5.jpg 

The horrific senseless murder of 17 lives has saddened us all. Once again, we were reminded of our vulnerability. Like most schools, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had security protocol in place and trained personnel on duty.  Still, the Code Red alert was ineffective to avert a deranged psychopath from snuffing out innocent lives.

As in the past, this senseless massacre rekindled the long-standing debate about the intent, and scope, of the US Constitution second amendment which underscores “the right of the people to bear Arms.” This sacred passage emboldens the 5 million members of the NRA to acquire firearms for hunting, target shooting, and personal protection. It is amongst the most contentious issues that delineate the line of scrimmage between Republicans and Democrats.

But if we are to take solace by voicing our outrage and merely engaging in debate, the pain we now feel would promptly dissipate. The searing anguish would soon abate and the murder rampage would become just another statistic in the long standing entrenched battle that divides Americans and feeds the lobbyists.

On numerous occasions the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of blessed memory taught us how to respond to adversity. He noted, “It may be beyond our intelligence to know why a tragedy occurred, still, it is well within our ability to respond in a meaningful way.” Furthermore, to relegate a calamity to happenstance and remain indifferent is callous and cast a shadow of doubt on our acceptance of G‑d’s sovereignty. 

Media coverage of this heart wrenching massacre was vying for space along side the breaking story of Russian meddling in the US 2016 presidential election. Special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals and three entities for allegedly interfering in the 2016 presidential campaign. They engaged in “information warfare” by distorting facts and spreading distrust. In this battle the missiles are “bots and trolls.” And we, as slaves to social media become the unsuspecting foot soldiers to deliver the final blow.

Without belittling the danger of Fake News, there is another lurking hazard that is infiltrating our hearts and minds. Recent studies have concluded that on average, teenagers spend 9 hour each day engaged in social media. Needless to say, friendships are vital, staying current is of merit, obtaining information a necessity, but should half of our waking hours be dedicated to banter.  

Let’s stop for a moment and imagine what would be the last engagement of these 17 lives that were lost if they were granted a 9 hour hiatus. Naturally the time would be wisely used in a tangible and meaningful way, something of lasting value.

The book of Psalms concludes; “Each Neshama (soul) offers praise to G‑d.” Applying sagacious intuition the Talmud notes, using the same four Hebrew letters we could substitute Neshama with the Hebrew word Neshima (breath). Offering a profound message; “With each breath we take we are to praise G‑d.”  The Rebbe explains that the sages are not suggesting redundancy but rather that it’s within reach to continuously fine hone our perception and heighten our commitment.

 Life is a precious gift to treasure and time is a commodity to be used wisely. But in order to do so we need to reclaim control of our faculties and free ourselves from self imposed slavery.  Best wishes for a Kosher, Joyous, and meaningful Pesach.