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“Gun Idolatry,” Rabbi Zecher’s Shabbat Awakenings

May 27, 2022 | 26 Iyyar 5782

Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings as we reflect on the tragedy this week on our way toward Shabbat. You can listen to it as a podcast.

Have we become a nation of gun worshippers?

How long do we have to have so many dead lying before us before our nation can take full responsibility for the ravage of murder by an unregulated and uncontrolled system of access to guns? Grieving families should not have to weep like this. Traumatized children should not have to witness their classmates gunned down before their eyes. Innocent shoppers strolling the aisles should not have to lose their lives to bullets ricocheting in quick succession making it impossible to run for safety.

It can’t be too soon to call for sensible gun laws to protect the citizens of our country. We owe our action to every one of these souls and the devastated families they leave behind. How will one generation explain to the next one that we have put children in harm’s way? How will we justify that the worship of guns superseded the life of our children and neighbors? The perversion of the Second Amendment of our Constitution has clouded the ability to protect and even defend us.

It is gun idolatry.

Jewish tradition has much to say about idolatry. The Ten Commandments establish from the beginning not to worship other gods. It is the second commandment that informs us today.

You shall not bow down to [idols] or serve them. לֹֽא־תִשְׁתַּחֲוֶ֥֣ה לָהֶ֖ם֮ וְלֹ֣א תׇעׇבְדֵ֑ם֒

For I your God יהוה am an impassioned God, כִּ֣י אָֽנֹכִ֞י יְהֹוָ֤ה אֱלֹהֶ֙יךָ֙ אֵ֣ל קַנָּ֔א

visiting the guilt of the parents upon the children, פֹּ֠קֵד עֲוֺ֨ן אָבֹ֧ת עַל־בָּנִ֛ים

upon the third and upon the fourth generations עַל־שִׁלֵּשִׁ֥ים וְעַל־רִבֵּעִ֖ים

of those who reject Me, לְשֹׂנְאָֽי

(Exodus 20: 5)

The worship of the Divine, of that which is holy and sanctified draws us into an ethical and moral life. The commandments that follow speak to this. At the core of the book of Leviticus which we finish reading this week has at its core the holiness code. Righteous and just behavior is foundational to belief in a Power of the universe that moves with us and through us. You shall be holy for I am holy. (Lev 19:2). We are not God but rather are of God and therefore responsible. Our actions today whether it has to do with the treatment of the earth or one another will ripple out to the generations after us. The lack of focus and attention on humanity sacrificed in the name of possession of guns without accountability and liability is a form of idolatry. The status quo of gun ownership is a golden calf of our day.

The 13th century commentator, philosopher, and kabbalist, Nachmanides’ assessment of this commandment is that …the correct interpretation thus appears to me to be that Scripture is stating that God visits the iniquity, which the father perpetrated, upon his children, and excises them on account of the iniquity of their father, something like [the prophet, Isaiah] said, Prepare ye slaughter for his children for the iniquity of their fathers. (14:2) The words of Nachmanides ring true in our own day, and are brought to bear in the words of Isaiah, as this generation has placed on the next not just a levy for their lives but is causing them to bear the impact for the lack of sensible gun laws.

Making gun ownership legal at 21 instead of 18, banning automatic weapons, implementing accountable background checks, and ensuring guns are safely and securely locked up in one’s home are part of what it means to take action to protect us all. I wish there was no need to own a gun (though hard for hunting, which I don’t do) but that isn’t realistic. So we have to come to some understanding to make the law work in the favor of our citizens and future generations and not the powerful gun lobby.

Ecclesiastes reminds us that one generation passes away and the next comes after it. (1:4)

Will we be the generation that passes on to the next one gun idolatry or might we be able to eradicate it with sensible gun laws?

As we enter into Shabbat with hearts heavy with the sadness of loss and the profound sense of grief ravaging families in Texas and throughout our country, the work is upon us. We may not as Pirkei Avot (2:16) instructs, be able to finish the task but we can’t desist from it either.

Shabbat Shalom!

If you want to get involved, please let us know.

I do want to learn what you think; please connect with me.

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