There have been more than 400 racist incidents in the U.S. since Election Day, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Most of these hateful acts were characterized as “anti-immigrant” and took place either at businesses or schools. The SPLC said many of the incidents involved direct references to President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric and proposals.
This voting cycle has triggered an avalanche of emotions for so many Americans - at one moment displaying the dark hues of brutality, and another, light rays of hope. And sometimes, this polarization happens simultaneously. While I was gathering research for this post I ran across this disturbing photo of a large swastika and the words “Make America White Again” that was painted onto a softball dugout in Wellsville, New York.
At the precise moment when I was contemplating the emotional repercussions of the image, a handful of protestors marched past our Santa Monica office chanting “Build bridges, not walls!” How did the bystanders react? They applauded. You’re right if you think those voices sent a surge of relief after viewing such an anti-semitic message.
So with such heightened emotions - where can we turn to when searching for some peace? According to the Jewish sages, peace is the ultimate purpose of the Torah. Tanhuma Shoftim 18 sites “All that is written in the Torah was written for the sake of peace.”
“Great is peace since all other blessings are included in it.” (Vayikrah Rabbah 9) “The only reason that the Holy One, blessed be He, created the world was so that there would be peace among humankind.” Bamidbar Rabbah 12)
Peace is such an important concept in Judaism that Jews have a religious obligation to integrate it into their lives. “Seek peace, and pursue it - seek it in your own place, and pursue it even to another place as well.” Leviticus Rabbah 9:9
Take the word “Shalom.” Yes, it means both hello and goodbye - but it also means peace. It’s often one of the first greetings children learn. “Shalom Aleichem” - “Peace unto You” and the recipient replies “Aleichem Shalom” - “Unto you Peace.”
“Shalom Aleichem” is also the name of the song that begins the Shabbat meal every Friday night. By singing this song, we are asking G-d to bless our home with peace; that there should be no conflict between friends or family, especially on Shabbat.
Let there be a day where we say farewell to racial hatred. May that day come with speed. So on this Shabbat, I wish us all a night of light and peace.