It is a challenge to stay informed. These last weeks, the daily addiction of watching and reading the news has become so much more difficult.
From ISIS channeling Torquemada. to the latest chapter in the Israel-Gaza war; from the horror of the Malaysian airliner and the report (CNN 7/19/14) that soldiers on the ground have looted the valuables of dead passengers, to the on-going childish behavior of our “elected” officials. Add to all of this the growing shame of the fact that we have detention camps for children on our borders, and it is quite easy to understand why some people just stop watching or reading the news. Yet, for some of us, we cannot escape the habit, formed in our 1960’s youth, of staying in touch with what is going on. It is just getting harder to “understand” and perhaps process,, especially with 24 hour news channels and the ability to tune in to the world all day, all the time. There is a type of “promiscuity of information” that can lead to a sense of being overwhelmed. We wish to “do something” but, in reality, the world has become much too complicated. And, most likely, Netanyahu or Putin (or Obama for that matter) are not waiting for our thoughts or opinions.
I have been blessed to have two grandchildren staying with us in July. They are enrolled in a local JCC day camp. Every morning I give them breakfast and sometimes, when time permits, they climb into my lap as I check out a little “Morning Joe”. The other day, as I watched tape of the airliner disaster and the fighting in Gaza, I looked at them; in to the eyes of a 5 and 2 year old, and could not help but wonder what kind of world they would inherit from us. The kids asked what I was watching. The 5 year old said, OK, but can we watch a kids show before we leave? And the 2 year old just looked at me as I tried to tell them what was going on and simply asked “why?”. Two age appropriate responses? Yes, but! In a way, they help remind us of a focus.
We, each of us cannot save the world. But, each of us, in our own way, can, as Pirke Avot says, save our part of it. Maybe it is a sense of wisdom we acquire as we get a little older. Maybe we come to understand that we can effect change in small ways by focusing in on the “little victories”. But looking in to the eyes of these children, I also again realized that, as complicated and frightening as the world may be (and perhaps always has been), we need to do everything we can to keep them safe and healthy and try as hard as we can, to allow them to grow up in a world that celebrates life. That alone is a very big job.
That “why” question has been with us since the dawn of mankind. We need to try and answer that for each of us and, more importantly, for all the children.
Rabbi Richard F. Address