On Tuesday evening, hundreds of Charlotteans gathered for an Interfaith Vigil to remember the murdered and injured from the horror of last Saturday night and Sunday morning in Orlando.
Initially, I could come up with no words but these for that evening:
The litany is too painful. Our powerlessness seems overwhelming.
Judaism reminds us that, in the face of unspeakable loss and horror, we must start with the words we utter in grief and mourning - so on Tuesday evening with all of those people of many ethnicities, faiths, and identities, I chanted Eil Malei for those who were struck down:
Eil Malei Rachamim
Exalted, compassionate God, grant infinite rest, in Your sheltering Presence, among the holy and pure, to the souls of our sisters and brothers murdered by senseless hatred and violence in Orlando, who have gone to their eternal homes.
Merciful One, we ask that our loved ones find perfect peace in Your eternal embrace. May their souls be bound up in the bond of life.
May they rest in peace.
And let us say: Amen.
We mourn and then we work to transform death into something else, to find meaning, create life from the dead bodies of those whom we mourn, to devote ourselves to improving the world. At the minimum, we can sum up a Jewish ethic as a campsite morality:
We must leave the world better than we found it.
On Tuesday, I concluded with this poem, to help us all move from mourning into action, so that the memories of all whom we have lost might be turned into a blessing.
Dirge Without Music
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains—but the best is lost.
The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love—
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
I am not resigned to a world of unrestrained senseless hatred and violence. I have faith that we will all stand together and make sure that we do something - we cannot be paralyzed by the status quo.
First and foremost we must make true common cause with each other, and everyone who stands for civil decency.
We are united by more than divides us. We must stand together now.