It used to be that on Shabbat morning during the spring and summer I’d bring the local newspaper inside my house because I wanted to see the baseball scores from the previous night’s action. If my team wins, my day is already better. If my team loses, it changes my day.
I know, I know. Shabbat is above everything else, and I don’t know how I’d live without it, and there is so much more to life and being Jewish than baseball scores. I can’t explain it, but I’m pretty certain that there are enough Mets and Yankees fans out there who go through the same Shabbat morning routine.
But something has changed. The innocence of a baseball score can’t even come close to my weekday and Shabbat routine anymore.
I remember coming out of Shabbat after Havdalah to quickly turn on the news, either on TV or my computer. My interest was in Israel, and I prayed that all was quiet, a day without terrorism.
So that hasn’t changed over the years. Except now I go to my computer each and every weekday morning to make sure that Israel is O.K., that the European Jewry made it through the night, and that there haven’t been any mass shootings in America while I slept.
Yes, mass shootings.
During Shavuot, out of touch pretty much, I didn’t really know the full scope of the Orlando massacre until I came out of the protection of the holiday.
Then, last week, it happened again, awaking on Friday morning to learn of the murders of five Dallas-area law enforcement officers by a madman.
Just yesterday, three court officers were gunned down in a Michigan town. Five African-American mourners at a funeral were shot and wounded in Baltimore.
I worry in advance of any violence at either upcoming political party convention.
And I have no new advice here. We have important, protected Second Amendment rights in our free country. Yet, somehow, time and time again we read about the colossal issue of the mental condition of these shooters, and it’s almost become a broken record.
Worse, I’ve at times had to stop myself from becoming numb over the shootings.
But much like reality TV, I tune in to the national media as soon as I can either after a Shabbat or Yom Tov, and unfortunately there are the talking heads quickly flown by their media companies to places like Dallas, Orlando or Sandy Hook.
Closer to my hometown of Baltimore, the media were all here during last year’s riots in reaction to the death of Freddie Grey. The City of Baltimore had issued a 10 p.m. curfew, and the only people out near the crime scenes were CNN, MSNBC and the other media companies.
What this brings me to is the Three Weeks, the Nine Days and Tisha B’Av.
These are, in our history, the most vulnerable, difficult days of the year. In my family, my wife Lisa is a stickler for these days. She yearly reminds her family to be as safe as possible during these days, not taking anything for granted. She talks of the Temple with a tremble in her voice. While she’s always taught us to be vigilant as we begin the Three Weeks next Motzei Shabbat, there’s a nuanced feel of fearful cautionary urgency.
Lisa has said to me that while we fast on Tisha B’Av and we read Eicha, never can we as Jews grow numb to the destruction of our Temple and the tragedies that have happened in generations since. And we cannot let ourselves fall into a sort of numb disregard for what seems like the regular occurrence of gun violence in our country and around the world, be it ISIS, Hamas or domestic terror.
Find relief in these warm days of summer, but pay attention to the world around you. Torah, tefillot and Israel are part of the oxygen we as Jews breathe. Those pillars should never be treated lightly just because school is not in session or many of us are away on a vacation. Look around; the disposition of our days needs to be more important than a pennant race or the words “breaking news” on a cable channel.
There’s much at stake, but we can never become numb.
Hopefully, when we emerge out of the upcoming Shabbat days leading into Tisha B’Av, the news will bring not more violence, but relief and hope.
And maybe a winning baseball score.
By Phil Jacobs