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Light and Darkness in Pittsburgh

The lights went out in Pittsburgh 8 days ago.   The shade from this moral eclipse reached far beyond the Pennsylvania border and, indeed, extended throughout the nation and onto foreign lands.  I know Squirrel Hill well, having performed medical training in Pittsburgh a few decades ago.  I’ve been to the Tree of Life synagogue in the prior era when none of us were afraid to engage in the routine activities of life. 

I am saddened and horrified to witness yet another momentary triumph of evil.  I wondered how it is possible that a person who was born pure could over time morph into a seething cauldron of hate, completely unmoored from the moral guideposts that keep us civilized.  

The man who stormed the innocents, wounded by selfless law enforcement professionals, was taken to the hospital to receive medical care.  Yes, we cared for his health and his life, despite that he massacred others who were in synagogue to pray and to celebrate a new life that had recently come into this world.  His nurse, a Jew, attended to him.   A society and individuals are defined by their ability to show compassion – not when it is easy to do so – but when it is hard. 

Example of an Eternal Light in a Synagogue Hovering over the Holy Ark

There has been much chatter if other people and influences might bear some indirect responsibility in this tragedy.  In my view, this is not the time to introduce other agendas that distract us from what should be commanding all of our attention.   

I remarked above my amazement that the hate of a thousand men could be contained in one man.  At times, we see the opposite phenomenon.  From time to time, we encounter a person who exudes more love, faith, tolerance and compassion than we think one man can possess.  Mr. Rogers lived near the Tree of Life synagogue.   

“Mr. Rogers, you left us too soon.  We need you so desperately.  Can you find your way back here even for a day?” 

The wound is grievous and raw.  I cry inside for the families and the Squirrel Hill community.  Within the Tree of Life synagogue, as in all Jewish places of worship, is an eternal light, which is situated in the front of the sanctuary.   With this light which still burns today, and all of our own lights, we must strive to wash away the darkness.  The work will never be done. 


  1. It is all very heartbreaking and I fear it is just the beginning of what our national consciousness seems driven to do. :(


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