Tradition & Innovation

Finding the Words

By Rabbi Nina Mandel
open notebook with pen and writing

Which words should I use?
There are so many to choose from, it seems a shame to try to find new ones. Maybe it is a waste of time, even.
Can I just use ones from Columbine, when I wondered if we would ever wipe the blood of these children off our hands?
Or the ones from Sandy Hook, where I condemned our leaders for looking away?
Maybe the ones from Parkland, when I was angry and demanded action?
I found words for the school shootings and the terrorist attacks.
Somehow found something to say about worshippers gunned down in the act of sacred gathering; something about people murdered in Walmart.
I have drawn from the texts I inherited: do not do this, do not stand by that; always remember, never forget.
I taught how Abraham argued with God to save just one life.
How Rachel sat by the road and wept.
I echoed the prophets who specialized in finding the words for despair.
I gathered the gleanings from my colleagues and friends who were able to be more articulate than I.
Or, maybe, there will be no words. No vigils.
No Letters to the Editor or Facebook posts.
No altars for candles and teddy bears.
No petitions, angry protests, or briefings.
No rehashing of homilies and prayers.
Just abandoned attempts at messages and sermons of consolation.
Just sitting and staring into the face of despair,
refusing to blink.
Foolish me, writing words to say that I have no words.
Knowing that I will share these words so that others will know that I have none that are adequate.
Foolish me. All I really have are words.

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