Building Hope, One Plank at a Time

This post on “If Not Now, When?” the interactive blog of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple, is the sermon shared by Rabbi Joshua Caruso on Friday, Nov. 2, the first Shabbat following the horrific shootings in the Pittsburgh synagogue.  We encourage you to share comments below, or to post the link to this post on social media such as Facebook or Twitter, or to share with others by email, to continue the conversations it engenders.

William Faulkner was once asked how he went about writing a book. His answer: “It’s like building a chicken coop in a high wind. You grab any board or shingle flying by or loose on the ground and nail it down fast.”

Maybe that’s what it feels like right now to build hope. We are looking for a board, a shingle, a plank – anything – to anchor us.

In this sanctuary, there is confusion, anger, and disconnect; we are unmoored. Perhaps it is in the notion that we have returned again to an ancient truth: Anti-Semitism is alive and well.

We are here tonight to mourn for the eleven dead who were killed at the Tree of Life congregation in Pittsburgh, but also to mourn the loss of a kind of innocence, the understanding that being Jewish in America today is not what we have known it to be.

In the face of the prevailing winds, building hope happens by nailing down one plank at a time in the center of a terrible storm.

One plank at a time we build hope.

The building of hope began this week for me when I, kipah resting on my head, was standing in line at a local Walgreen’s behind a gentleman who glanced at me and said, “Hey, man, I’m sorry about what happened to your people in Pittsburgh”. I thanked him, and I thought, “It’s no less tragic than what happened in Charleston or Sutherland Springs.” And it is a reminder that the demonization of Muslims and immigrants in our country today is widespread and unacceptable.

The building of hope is present at this very moment in Columbus, where Rabbi Nosanchuk is meeting with temple alumni who study there. He is spending this Shabbat with them at a tender time in their young lives – their generation all too familiar with tragedy. Rabbi Nosanchuk is guiding them in the comfort of their faith, and being duly inspired by their example to beat back intolerance and hate.

One plank at a time we build hope.

The building of hope will be evident in just a few moments when a bride and groom are called up to the ark for a blessing in anticipation of their wedding. And, when that ceremony concludes, a glass will be broken according to tradition. At that moment, they will be reminded that the shattered shards are symbolic of the brokenness of the world – and that they, this newly married couple, embody the healing.

One plank at a time we build hope.

We build it because you, a sacred part of the world Jewish community, have come here to make a statement that you will not be intimidated. In your presence here tonight there is clear evidence that Am Yisrael Chai – the people of Israel lives!

With all of these planks, we will build a beautiful Sukkat Shalom, a Shelter of Peace, and no one will be afraid again.