Follow the Golden Rule for Peace

Follow the Golden Rule for Peace

From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon

Follow the Golden Rule for Peace

In Houston, we gathered for a vigil on Monday afternoon to remember the tragedy in San Diego. The crowd was smaller by hundreds of people than the crowd that came after the tragedy in Pittsburgh. There are many reasons that might explain a smaller crowd, including fear and fatigue. There’s fear about large public Jewish gatherings, and there’s fatigue about what difference lighting candles and reciting prayers will make anymore.

I said to community leaders that we have to ask new questions about how to respond and what to do in the lull between tragedies. If we ask new questions, then we’ll arrive at newer answers for our times and circumstances. Sadly, tragedies in churches, mosques and synagogues are not unfamiliar and it’s not the end of them. But, what we do after a tragedy and during a lull can begin to make a difference.  So, let me ask you:

1. What question would you ask of community leaders, agencies or lawmakers in light of attacks on synagogues, churches and mosques?

2. What difference should we aim to make in our faith community and between others?

3. If and when a tragedy strikes again, how should we respond next time if not with another vigil?

Answers may vary, but let’s begin together with a lesson from this week’s Torah portion, Kedoshim. It includes a Golden Rule, “Love your neighbor as yourself, says the Eternal” (Leviticus 19:18). Love is at the heart of the relationship between us and others. At times, contempt or simple dislike for our neighbors can hinder our ability to love them. But, we don’t have the privilege to choose our affections for our fellow human beings. Our neighbors are also created by God, even if God’s purpose isn’t always clear to us. Love is a religious ideal that commands us to discover in others something that God, alone, understands, and to be at peace with that. After all, who are we to judge the purpose of God’s creations? Ours is to be commanded by God to love what God has created.

Let’s use this Golden Rule and its premise to ask the questions this way:

1. What can community leaders, agencies or lawmakers do to strengthen hate-crime laws and amplify examples of peaceful co-existence?

2. Can we create new and visible means for faith communities to experience love between them?

3. If and when a tragedy strikes again, what can every house of worship do on its respective holy day to stand up for love and against hate?

Would you take the time to consider your answers and send them to me? Would you engage your family or friends in a conversation about how to answer them and send your answers to me?

Now, as Shabbat comes and goes, let its time be set apart just as God created it to be; let Shabbat enter your heart and home and bring peace to you and your neighbors.

Rabbi David A. Lyon is Senior Rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel in Houston, TX. Rabbi Lyon serves on the Board of Trustees of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and chairs its professional development committee. He is the author of God of Me: Imagining God Throughout Your Lifetime (Jewish Lights, 2011) available on He can be heard on “iHeart-Radio” KODA 99.1 FM every Sunday at 6:45am CST. Listeners around the greater Houston area, and now the internet, tune in to hear his words about life and its meaning from a Jewish point-of-view. Each radio program is available as a Podcast, called “Heart to Heart with Rabbi David Lyon”. Click here to listen online, or download the iHeartRadio app.