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Rabbi Acoca on Parashat Vayetzei

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Mourners hold candles in the aftermath of the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Oct. 27. (Aaron Jackendoff/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images/JTA)

I am still struggling with the tragic event that took place in Pittsburgh. Eleven innocent people lost their lives and numerous more were wounded.

Unfortunately, anti-Semitism is on the rise all over the world and Jews are wondering, “Where do we go from here?”

There is a famous saying of ma’aseh avot siman le-banim, meaning that whatever happened to our ancestors will repeat itself.

In the last few parshiyot, the Torah spoke about the death of Sarah and then the birth and life of her son, Issac. For me, the message is clear. As Jews, we have to mourn the loss of life, we have to feel for other Jews, we have to express our support. At the same time, we have to look at the blessing of life every moment and appreciate it. In one verse near the beginning of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), King Solomon encompasses this idea: “One generation goes, the other comes, but the earth stays the same forever.”

I find this idea particularly relatable in a personal sense, because a couple days before the Pittsburgh tragedy, my daughter gave birth to a baby girl in Israel, blessing me with my first grandchild.

As Jews, we have dealt with tragedies for thousands of years, but we have kept strong, knowing there is going to be a future for our people, as God has promised us that He will never let us disappear.

This idea is related to us in this week’s parashah, where Jacob our forefather runs away from his brother Esau, who wants to kill him. Even though Jacob, who is representing am Yisra’el knew that he would go through a rough time, he knew that he would be able to overcome it and emerge from his challenges as an even stronger person. Let us all remember this message. Am Yisra’el chai ve-kayam!

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