To every action there is a reaction! Question is — what is the response?
There is a misnomer that a person’s response is only when there is a negative. Many have suffered at the hand of someone else’s act of violence, mistreatment, disrespect, neglect, gifts, compassion, affection, consideration and love. The list is endless. We’ve all suffered some and reacted: positive and negative. Some in response with a thank you or calling the police to report an abuse. The effect left an impression, hence, describes the ‘Like + Take = Response!’
Like the story of Brandt Jean and Amber Guyger we, too, have forgiven horrifying actions towards us moving forward with our lives. I think people, sometimes, think if you forgave that means forgetting; the unspoken act, no longer, bears any value. But this isn’t true. Clearly Brandt understood something about forgiveness. Why waste years holding a grudge? Either way, forgive or don’t, it wasn’t going to bring his brother Botham back.
This moment captured, still, brings tears to my eyes as this young man of 18 embraces his brother’s killer. But … she’s not a ‘killer’. Her name is Amber! That’s the glory in serving God. He forgives us even though we don’t deserve it and for Brandt to show that forgiveness, kindness and love is absolutely breathtaking!
Two months later here we “all” are! Curious … I wonder how the Jean family and Amber Guyger are doing?!
Since this blog has taken a turn I have something to inquire. How do you respond to those who do things to you?
Here’s a look back on a those who have displayed that astounding response:
Beth Kissileff (pictured), a writer and the wife of a rabbi who survived the shooting rampage that killed eleven worshippers at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, has asked the U.S. Department of Justice not to seek the death penalty against the man charged with committing those murders. In an opinion article for the Religion News Service, Kissileff wrote that she and her husband, Rabbi Jonathan Perlman of Pittsburgh’s New Light Congregation, engaged federal prosecutors and a social worker who had come to discuss the trial of the white supremacist accused of the act of domestic terrorism in “a discussion of Jewish concepts of justice.” Three members of the New Light Congregation were among those murdered in the synagogue. Rabbi Perlman, Kissileff wrote, told the prosecution team: “Our Bible has many laws about why people should be put to death. … But our sages and rabbis decided that after biblical times these deaths mean death at the hands of heaven, not a human court.” She writes, “if as religious people we believe that life is sacred, how can we be permitted to take a life, even the life of someone who has committed horrible actions?”
Kissileff bases her conclusion that a sentence of life without parole for the synagogue shooting is more appropriate than death both on Jewish teachings against the death penalty and on her hope that the killer might yet change his white supremacist beliefs. She wrote in an article for The Jerusalem Post that “[w]hen Jews are killed just for being Jewish, we commemorate them with the words ‘Hashem yikom damam,’ may God avenge their blood. This formulation absents us from the equation since it expresses that it is God’s responsibility, not ours, to seek ultimate justice. As humans, we are incapable of meting out true justice when a monstrous crime has been committed.” She explains that, although the Torah calls for a death sentence for some crimes, Jewish tradition teaches that death sentences should be very rare, if they are allowed at all. She writes that “a Jewish court is considered bloodthirsty if it allows the death penalty to be carried out [even] once every 70 years.”
Though recognizing that repentance is rare, Kissileff said nonetheless “[t]here is always a chance for redemption. Calling for the death penalty means there is no possibility for the shooter to repent, to change or to improve. I would rather not foreclose that possibility of change, slim as it may be, by putting someone to death.” She recounted the cases of white nationalists Derek Black, who renounced his hatred of Jews after being invited to Shabbat dinners by Jewish students at his college, and Arno Michaelis, a former skinhead leader who later co-authored a book on forgiveness with a man whose father was among the seven congregants murdered in a hate attack on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. Referring to these examples, Kissileff said “[n]either [man] might have been expected to change their beliefs, and yet they have.”
Kissileff’s articles describe the legacy of those who were killed in the Pittsburgh attack and how the shooting has inspired others to become more involved in the synagogue and to learn more about their Jewish faith: “Creating more knowledge of what Judaism and Jewish values are, and encouraging more Jews to commit to them, is the most profound way to avenge their blood.” She writes that, “rather than seeking the shooter’s death,” a better response for Jews would be “strengthening other Jews and Jewish life in Pittsburgh and around the world. Doing so will mean that Jews, not forces of evil, have the ultimate victory.” She concludes: “The most important vengeance for the murder of 11 Jews or 6 million is for the Jewish people to live and the Torah to live, not for their killer to die.”
(Beth Kissileff, WIFE OF PITTSBURGH RABBI: NO DEATH PENALTY FOR ANTISEMITIC SHOOTER, The Jerusalem Post, February 20, 2019; Bob Bauder, Wife of rabbi who survived Tree of Life shooting opposes death penalty, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 20, 2019; Beth Kissileff, The Jewish answer to how to punish the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter, Religion News Service, February 27, 2019.) See Religion, Victims, and Federal Death Penalty.
Please check out more on this topic at: https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/facts-and-research/new-voices/victims-families