Apr 25, 2013

Rabbi Gary Creditor: "I Have Several Questions" - Sermon for April 24, 2013

I Have Several Questions

Rabbi Gary S. Creditor

Richmond, Virginia

April 26th, 2013


[This sermon is written in response to the actions or lack thereof in the United States Senate. It is delayed a week because of the tragic events in Boston and the priority of responding to those moments.]


I Have Several Questions:


I would like to ask the NRA just one question: "What is your proposal to reduce gun violence in America?" I could ask them many questions, but this one is the most important. I don't need to search for statistics. I don't need to study the Second Amendment. I don't care who is a liberal and who is a strict constructionist.


But this I do know: that every day I open the Richmond Times-Dispatch, every single day, there is another report of violence with a gun.

It doesn't matter if some one is killed (oh yes it does!).

It doesn't matter if they are wounded (oh yes it does!).

It doesn't matter if children and elders are frightened out of their whits (oh yes it does!).

It doesn't matter if its part of a robbery, a spurned lover, or a broken marriage.

It doesn't matter in what part of the city its takes place (no it does not!).

It seems to me that every single day of every single month throughout the whole year, that some place in the tri-cities area of Richmond, Virginia there is violence perpetrated with a gun.


My personal reading of the newspaper every single day tells me not to believe anyone who says that the rate of gun violence has diminished. No it has not! Cumulatively, either in robberies, woundings, murders, terrorizing, or other acts of criminality, guns are increasingly wreaking havoc in our society, endlessly, ceaselessly and with impunity.


The NRA does not want to infringe on anyone's right to have guns.

The NRA does not want to infringe on anyone's rights to have guns that fire many rounds in very quick succession.

The NRA does not want to infringe on anyone's rights to have magazines for guns that will enable them to fire many rounds in the minimum of time.

So I have only one question for the NRA:

"What is your proposal to reduce gun violence in America?"

                                                                        "Do you really care?" Or maybe not?

"Don't tell me what you won't do! Tell me what you will do!"

                                                Is all we get is silence? All we get are more guns?



I have a question for the Senators in the Congress of the United States:

"Do you read the daily paper?

Do you pay attention to the articles on gun violence on the streets of every single city, town, hamlet and village in this country?

Have you ever buried a person killed by a gun?" I have!

"Did you ever stare into their grave?" I have!

"If you were there, what were you thinking?

            Where you standing there calculating how many votes you would gain or lose?

            Where you considering your personal score with the NRA?

            Or did you just stop and think what this dead person could have done

                         with their life instead of being in their grave?"

I ask every single Senator, man or woman: "Are you a 'man' or a mouse?"

                         "What is more important to you – being re-elected or saving a life?" And not just one life, many, many lives! "Do you care?"



I have another question for everyone who hears this sermon in our Sanctuary tonight or who reads it on the listserv or in any other electronic media:

"What have you done to help reduce gun violence in America?"

            Have you signed petitions to the President, Senators and Representatives?

                        If so, how many? How often? And if you have, don't stop now!

            Have you marched in the streets?

            Have you lain down on the ground as I did in Capitol Square as if I was dead?

                        Imagine lying down, in silence on the cold ground looking at the sky

                        through leafless branches, not moving and thinking that you are dead?

            Have you talked to your children about guns?

            Have you talked to your neighbor about guns?

Or have you pulled on blinders and said: "Hear no evil; see no evil; know no evil"?


But it is right outside our door! Gun violence is not a City of Richmond "problem." It is not an Henrico County "problem." It is not a Chesterfield, Hanover or Goochland Country "problem." It is everybody's problem. Every preacher from every pulpit can echo these words about their own locations.

            It knows no borders.

            It knows no age.

            It knows no gender.

            It knows no race, no ethnicity, no color.

Gun violence is an equal geographic, demographic monster.

            It kills Presidents, Senators, leaders, and the unknown.

            It destroys the rich and the poor.

It is, in truth, the Malach HaMavet, the Angel of Death. As different from the Pesach ditty of Chad Gadya, it is we, not God, who must conquer the Angel of Death.


In the Book of Leviticus, 19:16 we read in the Hebrew: "Lo ta'a'mod al dam ray-eh-cha, Ani Adonay." The last two words simply mean "I, YHVH – translated as 'Lord/God.' In the verse its purpose is to given the ultimate imprimatur of our God upon the first half of the sentence. There are many attempts to translate it:

            "Do not profit by the blood of your fellow."

            "Do not stand aside the blood of your fellow."

            "Do not stand by the blood of your fellow.

            "Do not rise up against the life of your fellow."


I prefer the simple literal translation: "Do not stand ON your neighbor's blood."

Whether we walk here or there, in public or in our backyard, in one part of the city or another, the very earth is stained, sullied, desecrated, violated by the blood shed anywhere.


Are we capable of literally – not figuratively - standing on, walking on the blood of others?


Who will answer my questions?


Shabbat Shalom