Rabbi’s Review – December 2017 – January 2018

Casting Light

Rabbi Charles K. Briskin


When you are in a darkened room, all it takes is one flickering match to illuminate it just a bit.

I thought of this image when we lit a havdalah candle in the Parish Hall at St. Francis Episcopal Church last month. We had just concluded a large interfaith forum in which we thoughtfully addressed issues related to gun violence prevention and gun safety. This forum was conceived as a way to move beyond the all-too- common and limited trope of “thoughts and prayers” that dominate political conversations following mass shootings. While thoughts and prayers are partially helpful, without action, they are empty.

I, along with Rabbi Leah Lewis, Rev. Paula Vukmanic and a core committee of area clergy, created an evening in which we began an important conversation among people with whom we may share different ideas about gun safety and gun violence as we looked to find common ground.

One table was represented by several members from Temple Beth El and another man who was a gun owner. He explained to our curious group of non-gun owners why he owned sixty guns, where he likes to shoot, and the camaraderie he builds with other gun enthusiasts. Can you imagine this conversation happening outside of a facilitated and intentional dialogue? Our members gained insight into this man whom they would’ve caricatured had they not had a respectful and open conversation. Our gathering of 130 people, including at least twenty area clergy, was that flickering match that cast light onto a conversation that often doesn’t see the light of day.

Hanukkah is a celebration that focuses our attention on light. Each night we add candles to the hanukkiyah until even the darkest of rooms is awash in candlelight. I think of this metaphor—of increasing the light—when I envision bringing together people who hold diverse perspectives. We can find areas of commonality when we discuss the protection of the second amendment and the need to create and enforce laws that increase gun safety and can help reduce incidents of gun violence.

I hope that our November gathering was the beginning of an interfaith movement that addresses gun violence prevention. Together we will work to maintain the sanctity of life, preserve the Constitution, reduce incidents of gun violence, and find common ground around an otherwise divisive matter.

May each of us who is moved by this issue add our light and join together, like a havdalah candle, to cast a bright and wide glow as we work together to find commonsense solutions to this public safety crisis. Look to your weekly email later this month for an announcement of our next gathering in January.