How To Stop Terror From Closing Our Hearts

How To Stop Terror From Closing Our Hearts

Nice, Brussels, Paris and Paris again.  Orlando, Charleston, Boston and Dallas.  A litany of terrorized cities grows longer each and every week.

We are understandably afraid. 

In this age of terror the ordinary and everyday can become terrifying.  Going to work.  Traveling on a plane.  Walking through Times Square (or celebrating Bastille Day) can instill fear rather than offer the revelry for which these should only be known.  This of course is the very goal of the terrorists who are bent on murder and destruction.  They seek to upend the ordinary.  They plot to terrify the mundane.  Their very goal is to amplify fear.

But fear narrows our vision.  It diminishes our world.

The incomparable Hasidic rabbi, Nachman of Bratslav, once taught: “The whole world is a narrow bridge, but the essence is never to be afraid.”

He offers a helpful image.  We require bridges to traverse divides.  We need bridges to discover new and uncharted horizons.  Without bridges our society becomes smaller and more closed.  Our cities, and countries, become isolated from one another.  If we are to remain open to others, if we are to embrace new people, forge new friendships and learn new ideas we must never be afraid to cross this narrow bridge.  We must remain open to what lies on its other side.  There, on the other side of the divide, lie our dreams.  And it is these that animate the heart. 

And yet with each passing week there is another attack.  And so we withdraw.  We seek to narrow our world.  We come to dread the bridge.  The canyon seems insurmountable.  We push Paris and Nice into the distance.  “Don’t travel there!”

The more terror, the more fear.  The more fear the more narrow this bridge becomes.    

We are left with but two responses.  They are both located in the heart.  They are both to be discovered in faith.

First, we must remember those murdered.  We take their names into our hearts.  Although tears sting they also nourish memories.  Our tears remind us of who and what we love.  Our cries are a testimony to the values we continue to hold in our hearts.  When we remember and mourn we give life to the memories of those we lost.  We reanimate our dreams.

But then once again there is another attack.  We are tempted to narrow our vision.  The pain of these fresh tears diminish our sight.  We must decide.  We must remain defiant.  We must choose to allow these very tears to reaffirm our dreams.

And second, we must forever summon the courage to continue with the everyday.  Terrorism is defeated in our hearts.  Fear can be banished by faith.  Terror can be exiled by a strengthened heart and renewed spirit.  It is not about better security.

It is instead about a more secure heart.  It is about the bridges that connect our cities and our world.


Rabbi Steven Heneson Moskowitz is the rabbi of Congregation L’Dor V’Dor, a vibrant synagogue on Long Island’s North Shore. His writing appears in a variety of publications including Reform Judaism and The Times of Israel. He also blogs at rabbimoskowitz.com

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