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Emor: After a Terrorist Attack: What Do We Teach Our Children?

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In the wake of the terror attack at the Boston Marathon, a week ago today we witnessed the spectacular news that the two perpetrators had been captured after a chase and shoot-out that captivated the nation. One of the two, Tamerlan, age 26, died in the process, but his younger brother Dzhokhar – only 19 years old – survived. He has since admitted his role in the cold-blooded planting of two bombs that killed three and wounded 260. We now wait to learn his motivation for this attack, though we know that he was a radical Islamist who identified with Chechnya, a Russian republic.

But the greater question is: What do we take away from this?

As we read with shock that a 19-year-old boy, who was an American citizen and not a victim of any kind of oppression, would stage an attack on innocent people – planning to kill or maim as many as possible – we no doubt react with anger. But even if this boy is prosecuted to the full extent of the law and given the death penalty, will that close this chapter in our consciousness?

And what will we teach our children about an event such as this?

It just so happens that education is the subject of this week’s Torah reading, as is mesirat nefesh, the mandate to sacrifice one’s life for God.

This sermon examines the important subject of educating with love, of instilling in our children a culture of life – which is Judaism – and of the importance of healing the world and not harming it.

Along the way, this sermon also makes a connection to Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (and Lag B’Omer which we celebrate tonight) and how this famous author of the Zohar had to learn the vital lesson above.

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