On Sunday, Oct. 11, Newsday, under its On Faith column,
posed this question –
Tragedies such as the Las Vegas mass shooting and deadly hurricanes seem as senseless as they are unprecedented, but an oft-quoted Bible passage states, “There is no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) –
How can Scripture comfort after a national tragedy?
Three clergy – Rabbi Susan Elkodsi (Malverne Jewish Center), The Rev. David Anglin (St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Amityville), and Dr. Panna Shah (Member, Long Island Multi-Faith Forum) were asked to discuss how to find solace and hope for the future in holy books that have stood the test of time.
Rabbi Elkodsi’s response:
What a timely question during the festival of Sukkot, when we read the book of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), which astutely noted that what has happened before will happen again. National tragedies aren’t new. They’ve been happening since time began: Noah and the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, destruction of the Holy Temples and exile first by the Babylonians and then the Romans, to name a few.
During 40 years in the wilderness, the Israelites experienced hunger, thirst, plagues and mutiny, but no matter how angry God was with the people, God’s positive attributes, including compassion and loving kindness, prevailed. Reading our sacred texts can provide comfort by reminding us that humanity has lived through these large-scale tragedies, and often come out stronger as a result.
Throughout the Hebrew Bible, God’s presence can be found with the people in their wanderings. In the Talmud, Rabbi Simon ben Yochai says that God’s presence went into exile with the Israelites, and quotes verses including
I Samuel 2:27, “Thus the Lord has said, ‘I revealed myself to the house of your fathers when they were in Egypt subject to the house of Pharaoh.'”
Reading Scripture by itself can only go so far, however. We must remember that being created in God’s image means that we are God’s partners in creating a better world. May we find comfort and strength in our sacred texts and know that we are not alone.