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How We Can Help Move the World Closer to Peace

How We Can Help Move the World Closer to Peace

stop sign with bullet holes

Recently, my son and daughter participated in a lockdown drill at school. Chattering about it on the car ride home, 13-year-old Josh blithely recounted how he cowered under the newly installed shatterproof windows in his math classroom as someone in the hallway tugged on the door to make sure the teacher had locked it. Although he had been well prepared for what he knew was a drill, my son confessed to feeling a bit nervous when the lock was jiggled. His older sister, Abby, hid in the boys’ locker room, calculating the number of doors an intruder would need to breach before reaching her and her classmates.

Although I appreciate proactive disaster management for all types of emergencies, the lockdown drill sent me reeling, as I endlessly imagined my children and their peers huddled in classrooms and closets throughout the school. Perhaps it was the drill’s proximity to the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings in Newtown, CT, four years earlier. At that time, my youngest child had just turned seven – the same age as the 20 students who were killed. That winter, it seemed that, together with other parents in Ben’s class, I cried endlessly – for the precious children and their teachers, for the heartbroken families, and for our shattered world in which it’s so easy to stockpile rifles and semi-automatic weapons.

Sadly, in our country today, it is still far too easy for individuals with nefarious intentions to obtain weapons designed solely for killing the greatest number of people in the shortest time possible. Even with advanced security systems, strict entry rules, and lockdown drills, our schools struggle to prepare for the appalling situations gun violence creates in our midst again and again.

As images of my children hiding from gun-toting stalkers continued to haunt me, I asked myself what advice I might offer a friend experiencing this kind of emotional fallout. I decided I probably would quote one of my favorite verses from Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Ancestors) and recommend that my friend follow Rabbi Tarfon’s sage advice, loosely interpreted this way: “Although it’s not your responsibility to finish a task, you still are on the hook to keep trying.”

Thinking about this verse from the Mishnah was enough to prompt me to take my own advice (and Rabbi Tarfon’s) by writing to one of my senators. In my email, I told him about the lockdown at my kids’ school and my lingering heartbreak over the victims of Sandy Hook and other shootings. I urged him to use his power for good and implored him to keep fighting for stricter gun control laws in this country. When I hit “send” on that e-mail, I knew I had taken a tiny, but meaningful step toward repairing our world, and my heart lightened.

The Talmud reminds us that, “the world is sustained by the breath of the children in school.”  By lifting our voices, we can help protect the breath and spirits of our children, as well as their future – and ours. In this way, we can move the world just a bit closer to peace.

Rabbi Sharon G. Forman was raised in Norfolk, VA, and was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1994.  She has worked in the field of Jewish education for the past 22 years, and most recently has served as a bar and bat mitzvah teacher at Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, NY. The author of Honest Answers to Your Child’s Jewish Questions (URJ Press, 2006), she also contributed a chapter on the connection between breastfeeding and Judaism to The Sacred Encounter, edited by Rabbi Lisa Grushcow (CCAR Press, 2014).  Her most publication has been The Baseball Haggadah:  A Festival of Freedom and Springtime in 15 Innings, which makes the seder accessible for lovers of two springtime rituals.  She has also contributed to Kveller and Mothers Always Write. She resides in Westchester County, New York with her husband and three children.

Rabbi Sharon G. Forman
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