Leading Rabbi: Too Easy to Rush to Judgment on Reason for Shooting

Friday, 14 Dec 2012 07:17 PM

By Todd Beamon and John Bachman

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Now is not the time for analysis and explanation of the seemingly senseless rampage that left nearly 30 people, most of them young children dead in Connecticut, Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, president of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, tells Newsmax.TV

“Now is the moment for cultivating compassion and acting lovingly to get through what really is unexplainable,” Hirschfield tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview.

“The job right now is to make the unexplainable bearable — and if we’re willing to do that, we will have at least part of the answer to how do we not simply get used to this horror.

Watch our exclusive interview. Story continues below.



“One way we don’t get used to it is by not quickly reaching for the typical explanations, and I’ve already seen them come across my screen,” Hirschfield continued. “From one side of the political spectrum, you already see the claims of we have to rein in guns because this is about guns and it’s a gun-violence issue. And then the other side is quickly saying, this is about the moral decline of America.

“What I want to say to all of them is you may be right, you may be wrong, but how do we not become callous? The way we do that is by having the courage to open our hearts, to actually practice compassion toward each other — and especially to those closest to us — and most especially to our children, to admit that this isn’t normal. This can never be normal. And yet, somehow, because this also isn’t all of life, we will find our way through this.”

Hirschfield is the author of “You Don’t Have to Be Wrong: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism.”

Twenty children died in the rampage, 18 of whom authorities say died  in their elementary school classroom. Many other students got out of the school safely. Many will ask their parents why something like this happened, Hirschfield said.

“What they have to do is tell their kids that this is horrible but that it’s also not typical. And that they, their parents or caretakers, are there to love them no matter what. What kids need more than an explanation for why this happened is the reassurance that they will be cared for and loved as much as possible by those closest to them.

“And that’s true beyond just kids,” Hirschfield added. “That’s all of us. Because as much as we are wrestling with what happened in Connecticut, the deeper thing that probably troubles all of us is how close potentially each of us are to being in that position. So we want to be reassured — and if we want to be reassured, our kids definitely want to be reassured, and that’s what we have to do.

“Hold them. Hug them. Don’t go for the easy answer but promise them and live into the promise that no matter what you will be there for them to the best of your ability — and love them more than they could possibly understand.”

The Newtown shooting is among the deadliest school shootings, with more victims than when two teenagers went on a rampage at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., in April 1999, killing 12 fellow students and a teacher.

And in the past year alone, mass shootings have occurred in Oakland, Calif.; Aurora, Colo.; Oak Creek, Wis.; and Minneapolis — among other cities.

Hirschfield suspects that Americans are “probably not” getting enough time to grieve or to fully comprehend the causes of these mass tragedies before another one occurs.

“There is a time for analysis, and there is a time for better policy, and there is a time for addressing these issues systemically — but while the bodies are still warm is not that moment,” he said. “We have an obligation to let people know that they must take this in hand for themselves and insist that we as a community, we as a culture, we as a nation make that time.

“We must refuse to buy into easy answers while people have not yet even been buried,” Hirschfield said. “And insist that the real task at hand right now is to come together in compassion, admit what we can’t explain and promise to remind ourselves and each other that — as horrible as this is — this is not all of life.

“There is more to life: that actually each and every one of us has a role to play and can play a role in making sure that these kinds of events never happen again. It may take a while to get there but we can get there.”

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