Cecily Routman: Jewish faith honors God's gift of life
The act of terror against defenseless, innocent people at the Tree of Life synagogue grieves us deeply because the Jewish faith values life above all else. The skills, accomplishments, reputations, family and community ties that comprised the lives of our lost brothers and sisters were many and laudable; but, it is their intrinsic value as human beings created in the image and likeness of God that gave them value.
Judaism’s foundation rests on the sanctity of human life. Jews are taught to choose life ( bachar chaim ) that we may live and our children will live; to drink to life ( l’chaim ) for peace and blessings; and to study God’s word in the living Torah ( Torat Chaim ).
We believe that God created all living things, and through Divine Providence, continues to animate all living things. His love and blessings, bestowed upon us at conception, continue to flow in us throughout our lives, affording us power and guidance to express His divine will on Earth.
Maintaining this God-given, God-driven life requires respect, gratitude and protection. We must first acknowledge that life is a revelation of God. Our respect for God’s power and creative intelligence deepens as we reflect on this miracle of life; in turn, we must respect the life He creates. From our respect comes gratitude for the opportunity to be formed, grow, develop, mature, learn, love, worship, work, contribute, and serve God and our fellows. Our ability to live this God-centered life requires that we protect ourselves from anything and anyone who threatens our survival.
We take these blessings for granted when we minimize and deny the evil around us. If the biblical garden paradise housed a snake, our modern society certainly does, too. Yet, our world also offers many beautiful and meritorious qualities on which to focus. Anti-Semitism and terror stemming from sick minds lost in the death culture ought not stop us from having the faith and courage to live each day to the fullest.
The birth of Moses teaches us that sustaining Jewish life necessitates bringing life into a compromised world. Though Moses was threatened with certain infanticide, his parents chose to believe that God would protect their son. The life of Moses teaches us that God’s power sustains us despite the presence of wickedness. We honor God’s gift of life when we grieve the lives of those we’ve lost. We respect God’s gift of life when we protect and defend the innocent and defenseless among us. May the memories of the fallen at the Tree of Life synagogue be a blessing to us all.
May there be abundant peace from Heaven, and good life upon us and upon all Israel. Amen.
Cecily Routman is president of the Jewish Pro-Life Foundation based in Sewickley.