So I’d just finished photographing the tallitot that I've been working on, when Bruce comes in with his iPad in hand to tell me that there's been a shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. I am imagining my beautiful tallitot splattered with blood - an involuntary sacrifice. As if we needed any more proof that thoughts and prayers don't stop bullets! People are killed in their various houses of prayer all too often, all around the world.
My thoughts turn, as they often do, to the words of the prophet Micah, when Jerusalem and Judea were facing certain destruction - I think it was at the hands of the Assyrians that time.
The people wonder what they can do do avoid their violent fate. These are the days of temple sacrifices. They ask:
With what shall I come before the Lord
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
The prophet’s answer - the one I think about nearly every day:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
This then is the answer - the eternal answer - no more bloodshed this time, more sacrifices are not required. Just our lives, practicing justice, mercy and putting one foot in front of another.