An hour ago, my son, who's in kindergarten, got off the bus as he always does. He greeted me with his typical salutation--making his fingers into a gun and going 'pew pew'. On our way back to the house he told me about his day and what he learned. We shared a snack, went over the things in his folder and the lunch menu for next week, and now he's watching a cartoon while he waits for us to light Chanukah and Shabbat candles.
All totally mundane activities, no different than any other. Except for the events of today at the Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut. Others have shared words of wisdom: of prayer, of parenthood, on politics and gun control. As they say, all are the words of the Living God. I cannot match their words. But I am mindful of this week's portion. As Israel debates sending Benjamin to Egypt (with Simeon already in captivity and Joseph supposedly dead), Judah says, "Send the boy in my care, and let us be on our way that we may live and not die--you and we and our children. I myself will be surety for him; you may hold me responsible: if I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, I shall stand guilty before you forever." (Gen. 43:8-9)
Judah, himself having experienced the pain of losing two of his children, understands Jacob's anxiety of losing another son. So when he says "I shall stand guilty before you forever", his words are sincere, and not rash; he knows what is at stake, what kind of pain and loss and terror is experienced.
Friends, we are Judah: we are responsible, the guilt of this, the pain, the responsibility is upon all of us. An accounting is required of all of us. And we must begin to understand that our responsibility ends not at our doorstep, or with our own family, or our own choices, but with the choices of others as well.
Jacob is ready to be bereaved: having lost Joseph, he expects to lose Benjamin. Judah is responsible but hopeful; he knows that survival requires real efforts and real care, an accounting who's reward or punishment is eternal. We must be Judah, for the alternative is too painful for us to bear.