Monday, October 27, 2014

Sermonic Response to Ottawa

Top of the evening to all.

You may remember that there was a terrorist attack in Boston about 18 months ago.  I wrote a sermon in response to that event.  After the attacks in Ottawa and in Quebec last week, I felt that I again needed to respond.  The following sermon was delivered Shabbat Noach, October 25, 2014.

18 months ago, two bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Over the week afterwards, several of you offered me condolences as an American over an attack that took place in one of the venerated cities of my birth country, and in one of the venerated cities of that nation's birth.

I went back and read the sermon I wrote in response to that event. It was a good sermon. With a few changes to the words, I could easily give the same sermon today. That sermon spoke of my condolences to all of us, as we had yet again had the point driven home that the number of soft targets that we take for granted, synagogues, subways, the ACC, or any place at which people gather, might be a target. We had all been attacked that day.

The events of this week both in Quebec and in Ottawa are a grim reminder of this continuing reality. As I mentioned then, the mundane act of looking both ways when crossing the street involves more now than just checking for traffic. As well, with Canada's seat of government attacked, this nation is forced to consider the uncomfortable possibilities of increased security at its most proudly public places. As such, I return those condolences to all of you.

But I will also again accept condolences in this regard. I accept condolences though not as an American. I accept them as someone who shares a bond with all those who wear a uniform.  It is a bond that crosses borders.  I accept them as someone who, like you, has just been attacked. I accept them as someone who has just seen the reminder that the US and Canada have far more in common than not. I accept them as someone, like you, who has had to find the balance between security and individual rights, between a visible, accessible government with the doors of Parliament wide open so that we can all see what happens there, balanced against the need to protect those inside.

I again want to point out some of the good that happened. The first responders reacted well. They secured the locations, tended to the wounded, and protected their charges. Four total strangers stood over a mortally wounded Soldier to help him, and making sure that the final words he heard were of love. O' Canada was sung at a hockey game between the Flyers and the Penguins, teams not from this country. Yet again, good people outnumbered the bad.

Words of consolation are clearly in order. As such, I remember that we stand together, Canadians, Americans, British, Australians, and all of the other nations that had to adjust their security posture this week. We do not just stand together with resolve against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, to take arms against a sea of troubles. We also stand together with the warmth of genuine friendship and concern not just for ourselves, but for each other. We stand together knowing that we can no longer walk placidly through the chaos, but also knowing that we do not walk through that chaos alone.

As the locals build the Tower of Babel, there is an old midrash that as the tower got higher and higher, there would be construction accidents. The builders would sit and cry when a brick fell, but would not pay heed when a person fell. We pay heed when our people fall. We feel when our people fall. We realize that what makes the soul of a community and the soul of a nation is not contained in its bricks, but in the values and beliefs of its people. We are those people. We care when one of our own falls.

Keep safe, everyone.


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