A week ago, I received the sad news of the tragic death of a young relative. He was a hard-working young man raising two young children. His eight-year-old son suffered some injuries when armed men attacked the vehicle in which they were traveling. Thankfully, the lad survived, but his father died from multiple gunshot wounds.
I only met him once nine years ago, and we interacted for only a few minutes. Nevertheless, his senseless death weighs heavily on my heart and is a poignant reminder that all around the world, innocent lives are being cut short every day by senseless violence.
In the middle of the past week of mourning, I saw this perfect rainbow – a sign of hope, a sign of promises kept. Some of us may not know the value of a soul, but G-d still remembers His promise to be long-suffering toward us even when we are not worthy of His great love.
Young “Rambo’s” life had value. I imagine that perfect rainbow was a sign that once again, G-d saw that senseless killing and the growing wickedness in the good world he created. He looked. He saw and held Himself back from completely deluging us with His “tears.” The rainbow is a visible sign to Him of His promise that He would never completely destroy the world through the water again. For us, the rainbow should remind us of how much our world is teetering on the brink, and the more senseless violence we commit, the closer we get to our own self-annihilation.
What can one say in such a situation? How can one find the words to comfort a father who raised his children alone only to lose his first-born son in such a manner?
The only words I know are, “Yitgadal v’yitkadash…” This is a prayer known as the “Mourners Kaddish.” The title is almost a misnomer since the prayer never once mentions death; instead, it is the praise of G-d’s greatness and power. This teaches us that when we are faced with loss, hopelessness, and circumstances beyond our control, we can look to G-d and draw our strength from Him.
My dear cousin, in the tradition of my religion, I lit a candle for your son, and I will say the above-mentioned prayer with members of my congregation on behalf of your son and others who have fallen victim to senseless violence. Remember also, that you can be uplifted by acknowledging the strength, power, greatness, and love of your Creator. You may never make sense out of the nonsense that took your son, but in due time, you can begin a new day with joy after the dark night of mourning.