January 13th, 2012
Rabbi Gary S. Creditor
Within two weeks, national data, not local, of severely contradictory nature has been published that has painfully intersected with our personal and congregational experience. At the end of December the Times-Dispatch published an article that indicated the immense number of inquiries concerning the number of people buying guns at Christmas time. It is equally clear without publication that the number of guns purchased illegally severely compounds the number of guns sold legally. Yesterday's paper published an article that homicides – by any manner - are no longer among the top fifteen causes of death in the United States. And yet, virtually every day that I open our newspaper there is another death, or at least severe injury, that is caused by handguns. I must imagine, I cannot consider otherwise, that our experience is not duplicated over and over again throughout this country. It does not matter in what segment of our population this is occurring. It does not matter in what part of town it is happening. Each and every one is a tragedy that compounds grief with grief, misery with misery, loneliness, pain and anguish to their family and friends. Society as a whole is mutually wounded by each death. We in our congregation know firsthand of what I speak, in the murder a year and a half ago of Bonnie Marrow's son Robby, and on December 20th the past, her murder. I confess that when I have seen the title of an article of such a crime, not knowing the participants, I am quick to avert my glance to something else. No more. The particulars do not matter. We are members of one human family. The death of any, diminishes us all.
In the brevity of this d'var Torah, it my intention to just establish the basis of my appeal to our civil authorities to enact a law, I call it "Bonnie's Law," to address this plague, this disease, that of illegal hand guns in our population and to end the scourge of death that they inflict. How many deaths of sweet, good, honest, loving people will it take? How much pain must we collectively suffer? When will segments of our populace stop saying, "It doesn't occur in my backyard?"
Our Judaism is certainly not pacifistic. The Torah and the rest of the Tanakh is filled with military exploits. Their weapons were no less lethal. Abraham will save Lot with an armed militia that will overthrow numerous kings. In tomorrow's Torah portion Moses will kill the Egyptian beating a Hebrew. Joshua conquers the land of Israel by force. David and Solomon will also use deadly force in uniting and maintaining the kingdom. Israel fights the Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans, long before the twentieth century, those who fought to build the State of Israel and those who fought in the sewers and bunkers of the Warsaw Ghetto and other such places during the Holocaust. We are not a bunch of patsies. Judaism is not a pacifistic religion. I don't propose that society should roll over and play dead.
Our Judaism does not make anyone's blood redder than another's. As there is One God, One Creator of the Universe, then all men and women are brothers and sisters, all children are cousins, all are grandparents, and all are children. Judaism does not draw lines and say, "over there, for them, we don't care." God asks Cain: "Where is your Abel your brother?" Cain denies, refuses to accept any connection to Abel with the spiteful, pitiful words that echo through the centuries: "Am I my brother's keeper/guardian/protector?" In its literary structure God in the Torah thunders: "Of course you are!" That is the essence of our human condition! Judaism demands that we care whether the murdered is a member of our congregation or not, whether they are Jewish or not, of any color, of any faith, of any race.
Most of us in this room are old enough to recall instantaneously our emotions when, in an era before the speed of our current electronic gadgetry, we heard that JFK was murdered. First shot, then dead, and then the funeral. Of all the pictures that I carry in my mind and heart it is that of his son standing and saluting his father's casket. It is the child in all of us who did not yet realize what he had lost. We are all that child. And not so many years later was the murder of MLK, commemorated this weekend. Is it not possible to dream that we can all die in our beds of the natural causes of old age and even disease? But not from guns? Is it not possible to dream that we can go to work, go to school, go to the mall, and not be afraid? Are we so forgetful that shortly after MLK was murdered RFK was murdered too? Has that shock to our moral compass passed out of our consciousness and out of our conscience? Not mine. While all those initials might just seem like an alphabet soup to others, I carry them right next to my heart. How dare we do otherwise? In the course of human events, the next generation will only learn it from the media, Kindles and Nooks if not from books. I have the drying pages of the newspapers. But my memory doesn't fade.
Through the precepts of Kashrut, our Judaism rejects hunting animals of any sort because it brings them pain and rejects killing animals except for food. But lest supporters of the NRA surmise that I have gone over to the Dark Side, let me say, that I don't care about game hunters, duck shooters and the sort. When I was a child I had my cap guns and air rifle. In the changing of the times, our children did not. I am unsettled by the presence of guns of any sort. They are not a sport. They are lethal and instruments of lethal force. But I am not appealing to restrict legitimate citizens who follow the laws from owning guns. My personal view is that they don't make us safer. When I was a kid if you wanted to fight you said: "Put up your dukes" or something of the sort. Today they pull out a gun and shoot you dead. Which would you prefer? My heroes are the Lone Ranger, Roy Rodgers, Gene Autry and Hopalong Cassidy. While they all carried guns, they never shot them dead. It was only in defense, self defense and in the cause of justice. Today the images are gruesome, ghastly and horrific. Which society should we be?
In "Bonnie's Law" I call upon all our authorities, local, state and federal to close all the loopholes that allow for illegitimate and illegal obtaining of guns of any sort. I call upon the manufacturers of guns in cooperation with civil authorities to create a comprehensive system of documenting and registering every single gun and rifle they make. You mean to tell me that I have to go through so many rules and regulations to register, inspect, insure, tag, decal and pay tax on my car with a myriad of different numbers – Go forbid you mess up, and I can buy a gun with impunity at a gun show? That all the pieces of my car have VIN numbers hiding someplace and when I sell it I have to go through more hoops to make sure that the authorities know who owns it or what has happened to it, but not for a gun? Are we so insane?
In"Bonnie's Law" I want stiff penalties, not a slap on the wrist, for those who violate these laws, who smuggle in guns, who sell them under the counter, who remove numbers, and those who use them to murder and maim. Enough is enough.
I will circulate these remarks and my eulogy for Bonnie to our authorities at every level.
I want "Bonnie's Law" as a measure of justice not only for Bonnie Marrow but for all the Bonnie's of the world and for all the children of the world, and for the child that must reside inside the human heart, the pure, innocent, the just, the righteous child who does not know right or wrong; who only knows love.
Only then will we all rest in peace. In life and in death.
Posted By Rabbi Gary Creditor to Rabbi Gary Creditor's Blog at 1/12/2012 12:35:00 PM