Uvalde and me

Friday, 27 May, 2022 - 12:19 pm

There is no need for me to describe what happened in Uvalde this week nor how I feel about it because you already know it all. But I'd like to share some ideas I think about in the wake of such man-made tragedies - beyond mourning the victims and feeling solidarity with their loved ones - that may be helpful to others.

Judaism teaches that we must personally grow from everything we see or hear. How can I possibly become a better person after hearing 21 precious souls were gunned down in a school? Part of my instinctive reaction upon hearing about a mass shooting is to profile the perpetrator as someone I have no affiliation with whatsoever. I try to console my insulted and grieved humanity by declaring that such an evildoer was definitely insane and probably not even human. How can it be explained any other way?

Then I catch myself and remember the perpetrator was definitely human and insanity is a weak excuse for evil. So what went wrong? How is it possible for someone to do such horrible things?

Jewish tradition maintains that every person is born with two competing inner forces. One is the instinctive, survival force that motivates me to care for myself and succeed in life. The other force drives me to find meaning and purpose; to achieve goals greater than myself and make a positive impact on society.

Although one force is selfish and the other is selfless, both occupy my psyche and are constantly clashing. Every moral dilemma I face is the manifestation of these two inner forces pulling me in two opposite directions, and I alone must choose which inclination to follow. I cannot be blamed for my inner struggles, but I am certainly responsible for my choices. Most of the time the problem is not discerning right from wrong. More often than not the right choices are the harder ones and I need to choose selflessness over selfishness; divine awareness over self absorption.

In Genesis we learn how humanity started from one single person. The Talmud explains that G-d created one human being in the beginning to illustrate the preciousness of one single life and how important every individual’s choices are.

The consequences of these choices are usually not earth shattering, but the possibility for these inner struggles to morph into serious crises with far reaching consequences is very real. The more I train myself to make the right choices in the small, routine types of struggles, the more prepared I am to make the right choices when life shattering struggles hit hard.

A young man made a horribly selfish and evil choice this week, but I am neither judge nor jury and as a fellow human being I am left with the following questions. Am I making better choices in my personal struggles? Are my personal choices inspiring others to choose right over wrong and good over evil? Am I effectively educating my children to identify these struggles and to appreciate how relevant their choices are to G-d and society?

While I mourn with Uvalde and the relevant agencies find better ways to stop crime in the first place, I must certainly do more to ensure more people make the right choices more often than not and hopefully stop Uvalde from happening again.


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