It’s been unexpectedly bizarre dealing with my feelings about the horrific slaughter of 11 worshipping Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue this past Shabbat.
So many aspects to this are too soul crushing –
…it was a brit mila ceremony…
…it was a house of worship…
…it was way closer to home…
…it was the deadliest antisemitic attack in the US…
…it comes at a time when everything is already such a giant soul crushing mess…
…it comes at a time when there is no leadership to turn to and trust…
…it confirms, in a relatively small way, the reason I came to live in Israel in the first place…
– and so, I haven’t really opened myself up to deal with the killing openly, except to get into some chatter on Twitter.
I wasn’t going to bring this one up to my kids; definitely not my 9.5 year old son. And then he came home today and over dinner, while I was face-down in something work-related, he started asking me something in Hebrew but I was totally tuned out.
Urgently, he repeated himself; I felt his eyes on me, but I was hearing and not listening.
“A girl… A sign in my classroom… After tefillah… ‘We stand with you…’”
Finally, he asked again, and I felt his eyes heavy on me, and I caught the word Pittsburgh.
“Oh,” I responded. I looked up at him.
His younger sisters perked up and I said – “yes – let’s talk about it – but a little later, me and you.”
For the rest of the evening, he kept asking in between things – going upstairs, getting ready for the shower, before brushing teeth – and I gave him little bits to chew on. Surface bits.
Finally, while his sisters read each other books, he turned and asked me again –
“But why would someone do that?”
“Listen -” I placed my hands on his arms – “there are people in this world who… for whatever reason, they turned out in a way that they do really bad things. Maybe as kids, they didn’t grow up right. Maybe their teachers weren’t good. So there are people who will do bad, terrible things… That’s why the rest of us have to keep growing up to be good people…”
It felt lame rolling off my tongue. He turned away.
A little while later, while everyone else had fallen asleep, I climbed into bed with him. I whispered, feeling his wet hair and the pages of the book he was reading with a flashlight, “Hey.”
“Do you want to talk about… the thing. The… Pittsburgh thing.”
And then my son said something I never expected. My son who will never take ‘no’ or ‘not now’ or ‘it’s not really for you’ for an answer. My son, who digs a hole so deep it reaches China with his curiosity. My son, to whom I’ve explained the significance of Obama’s election, the significance of Trump’s election, how democracies work, what happened on 9/11, the concept of gun control, why we have an IDF, what it means to be living side by side with enemies…
“No. It’s too sad.”