Sparks of Good

Copyright Rabbi Eli Hecht
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A friend commented on the recent shootings.  "There is really nothing we can do.  My kids go to school and are exposed to random searches for weapons.  The Post Office is not a safe place.  Shootings are found in the work areas.  Even the churches, synagogues and day care centers are subject to shootings." 

His remark got me thinking.  What is happening to our great country?  What can I do about the situation?  How depressing this is.  Then I thought of the good things that may take place because of the bad things.

Let me quote the famous psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, "I can see beyond the misery of the situation to the potential for discovering a meaning behind it, and thus to turn an apparently meaningless suffering into a genuine human achievement. I am convinced that, in the final analysis, there is no situation that does not contain within it the seed of a meaning." (Recollections. An Autobiography, insight books. Plenum Press)

It seems my family is no stranger to acts of meaningless senseless violence. When my cousin's son was shot dead in a drugstore years ago I was devastated. Why does this happen I wondered?  His father, a contractor for the military, changed his production of bullet casings to provide religious candleholders for holiday use.

Soon after, a second tragedy followed. Another cousin, Ari, was also shot dead by an immigrant. Both boys came from wonderful families not belonging to gangs or bad clubs. There were religious and all around American kids.

Recently Mrs. Devorah Halberstam introduced a bill, Number 7702, nicknamed Ari's Bill, into the Assembly State of New York.  This bill states that no gun kit can be sold through the mail and put teeth into gun trafficking laws between states. Devorah is my first cousin and the mother of Ari who was killed in a senseless attack while traveling in a van with young divinity students.  His assailant, a Lebanese immigrant, claimed to be possessed with war trauma while being attacked in a Lebanese refugee camp.  He bought his gun through the mail.  His act of savage violence and mayhem on the Jewish students earned him a sentence of 151 years in prison.

His mother took her tragedy, a real meaningless suffering, to accomplish great things for our citizens. Ari's Bill is now being resubmitted to the Federal Government with the hope of it being passed.

Now imagine for a moment if such a Bill passed. How many more people would still be alive? How much misery could be averted if guns were not so readily available? Seventeen- year-old Ari had his life taken for no real reason.

Remember that the gun used in the shootings in Los Angeles was bought through a mail-in gun kit. 

Devorah has now embarked on a second venture, a new museum for Jewish children. It will be the first in the nation.  By doing this she has added a new dimension to his memory.  Estimated costs are $19.5 million.  The Children's Museum will be located in Brooklyn, New York. The Museum will promote harmony, cultural awareness and tolerance.

Ari's life will continue through the children visiting the museum. His memory will be celebrated through other living children.

There are others who can rise above the misery and find ways to celebrate the good.

For an example take my take good friend Yaakov, a veteran of wars between the Israelis and Arabs.  He once remarked that all through his military duty he was always able to find the bright things.  Once he and his company were grounded for a long period at the Suez Canal.  Almost every day the Egyptians launched military attacks of Howitzers or other weaponry.  The Israeli soldiers, located on the Israeli side, either shot back or retreated into their bunkers for safety.  After a few months of this give and take the soldiers were at their wit's end. 

The holiday of Chanukah was approaching and the men missed their families.  At Chanukah a candelabra menorah was needed but none of the men had one.  Not one menorah could be found.  It was a very depressing evening.  Suddenly Yaakov came up with a brilliant idea.  Why not take the spent shells and set them up as menorahs for the holiday.  The men transmitted their novel ideal around.  Menorahs of bullet shells were filled with petrol and rag wicks were burning brightly throughout the military area.  Menorahs everywhere!  Imagine turning objects of destruction into symbols of peace.

True, none of us look for suffering, however, if we are exposed to it, then, we need to turn suffering into human achievement. Our response to the shootings should be to make this world a safer and better place.

Chanukah celebrates the miracle of the Jewish revolution against the Greek occupation and religious persecution.  This took place in Israel 165 B.C.E.  A handful of Jewish freedom fighters, called Maccabees, waged a successful war for religious freedom.  When the temple was reclaimed, services were re-instituted.  The main menorah, a seven stick candelabra, was kindled.  Miraculously, the flames burned for eight days without being replenished with oil, hence the festival became known as the Festival of Lights.  During Chanukah we give thanks to G‑d for the miraculous time.

This year the first night of Chanukah will be Friday, December 3rd.  Remember the message of Chanukah and the Chanukah lights turning misery into miraculous times.  A little light dispels much darkness.