On Tuesdays, I teach liturgy and Torah trope. I decided today to take some of our lesson time to discuss today being the 19th anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. I think it is important that even all the way in Zimbabwe, we discuss what is on the minds of the Jews all around the world. I believe learning about more recent events is just as significant as learning about the ancient and rabbinical practices we’ve been studying.
On November 4, 1995, I was three. I don’t recall the news of the assassination in the slightest, but we learned about it in school every year for as long as I can remember, always associating the song Shir LaShalom with this tragic event. However, retelling it today was a totally new and emotional experience for me.
I showed an online video of Yitzhak Rabin’s final speech for the class with English subtitles. The Hebrew is not so easy to understand for students who have only been learning for one year, but the word that Rabin repeated over and over that everyone understood, was shalom, the Hebrew word for peace. I then played Shir LaShalom for the class, and showed them a picture of Rabin’s blood-stained lyrics sheet that was found in his breast pocket – words that plead for people to strive for peace, pierced with a bullet. While my students felt the shock of seeing this picture for the first time and the sadness of hearing this horrific story, I felt as though I was experiencing these feelings with them. I did not expect speaking about this day that was not at all new to me to be so emotionally difficult.
Last week, during our Israeli history lesson, I taught the class about Jewish sectarianism during the Second Temple period. We discussed the concept of sinat chinam (senseless hatred) and Jews pitted against Jews. I explained that this wasn’t just a problem back in ancient times, but an issue still relevant today. As we were remembering Rabin, the biggest shock for the students was that he was killed not by someone from one of the many nations where peace seems elusive, but by another Jew. And as I see the shock on their faces, I surprise myself hearing it come out of my own mouth. Again, I knew it was coming – I’ve known it almost all my life. But somehow breaking the news to others felt almost as hard for me as it was for them to hear it.
Ellen DeGeneres ends each of her shows by saying, ‘Be kind to one another.” I ended my lesson in a similar way. There are so many ways to practice Judaism, and I wanted to make it clear that what they are learning here is not the only way. Although we may decide which movement of Judaism is best for each of us, the most important thing is to be open to other ways of practicing Judaism, other ways of praying, and other ways of observing. At the end of the day, we are all Jews, we are all brothers and sisters. כל ישראל ערבים זה לזה