To persevere through life with joy and pain simultaneously is a signature aspect of adult life.
We’ve seen this clearly in Saturday’s hostage crisis at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville and particularly from Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker’s reaction.
Cytron-Walker was one of the hostages, and he helped them survive by throwing a chair at the armed terrorist, allowing for a brief moment of escape. His courage in the face of evil saved lives and has undoubtedly inspired fellow Texans and our nation.
As Cytron-Walker led a prayer service Monday night, just two days after the 10-hour ordeal, he acknowledged that the “violation of our spiritual home was traumatic for each and every” member of Congregation Beth Israel.
“Thank God — thank God. It could have been so much worse, and I am overflowing, truly overflowing, with gratitude,” he told his congregation.
“This coming together of diverse peoples with a goal of healing … this is a life-saving and a world-saving endeavor,” Cytron-Walker said. “When terrible things happen to me and you feel it — that’s empathy. That’s compassion. And that’s what enables us to see each other in spite of all of our differences.”
Leave it to a rabbi to perfectly sum up one of the great endeavors in life: To choose each day to live with both compassion and empathy — and even heroism, if the situation calls for it. And to do so in a world full of evil, where terrorists sometimes win, and perpetuate trauma on those who don’t deserve it.
Bad things do happen to good people. Few can stop that. But we can choose how we respond. Thriving in joy and pain, hoping to overcome insurmountable odds in the face of trauma and evil, is one of life’s great difficulties. What a beautiful thing to see in action from a fellow Texan.
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