Nov. 13, 2015
Editorial by Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur
In Judaism, the first sign of grief is the Kriah, or rending of garments. This gesture, in which the fabric of clothing is torn, is an expression of what death is. It is a way by which we who are submerged in mourning can express, without words, the abrupt breaking of the bonds that unite us, the rending of the fabric of our lives. The torn cloth is forever marked by an absence that cannot be filled: a hole that is the lack of everything that these men and women would have said and done, created and thought, brought about and engendered…
When confronted by such immense grief, we wonder how it can be possible to continue to live with the terrifying emptiness of the young lives that have been taken, how to sew the threads of their existences back onto our own, how to weave their memories into our lives, so that they will be fully honored when they are gone.
This issue of Tenou’a was conceived and written in the time before…. You remember that, before November 13, we used to talk about refugees and how to welcome them, about the challenge brought to us by the arrival of thousands of people fleeing war, knocking on Europe’s door in search of refuge. We felt an urgent need to examine what such individuals — the strangers, the foreigners — call into question by their very presence and their identities, to ask what their foreignness says about our own, especially when so many verses from our own texts repeat, as a sort of leitmotif: “Remember who you were, not so long ago — a ger, a stranger.” Do not forget your past, in which you too were uprooted and were so aware of your alterity.
Today’s tragedy has projected us into the time of rupture and grief in a different way, painfully aware of the war that must be waged even here. It is a war not against the other, the ger, but against the fanaticisms that are incapable of tolerating this other. For this is what distinguishes all forms of fundamentalism, and, in particular, the Islamism that kills: they are built on hatred of otherness, on an inability to imagine a society that would not be closed to all foreignness, for the sake of preserving the purity of origins..
This is why, more than ever, we should remember the aliens we once were, so that we may combat all those who consider themselves to be comfortably ensconced in their murderous dogmas and their rigid identities. This issue of Tenou’a remains both relevant and necessary. This is about finding, from within the very heart of our grief, a way to think together about the question of uprooting and alterity; thus we can move towards what we can still repair and become together. So that, as our tradition says, “their souls may be woven into the fabric of the living.”