Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Stumbling Over Guns Again and Again

This is the devar Torah I gave Monday night, December 16, 2013 at our team to curb gun violence meeting.

God commands us “not to place a stumbling block in front of the blind.” (Lev. 19:14) We can all understand why.  To deliberately place a stumbling block in front of a blind person is dangerous and cruel.  The rabbis extended the literal meaning of this law to a more inclusive understanding.  We are not allowed to put what ever a person is blind to in front of him.  (Rashi)  For example if you know a person is dieting, we are not allowed to place a piece of rich chocolate cake under his nose and entice with our words him to eat it.  We shouldn’t say things like: “Oh, one piece won’t make a difference.”  “Go ahead anyway, enjoy yourself.”

I thought of this verse as I was reading Nicholas D. Kristof’s op-ed article “The Killer Who Supports Gun Control” in Sunday’s newspaper. (December 15, 2013) http://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/14/a-perspective-on-guns-murder-suicide-from-attica/?_r=0 . Kristof writes about a convicted murderer, John Lennon (his real name but no connection to the Beatles).  Lennon gives us a modern gun example illustrating the verse “not placing a stumbling block before the blind.”

Lennon writes: “I do take responsibility for the murder; I’m sorry for taking his life and the life he could have had.  But without a gun, I would not have killed.”  He describes a gun as “that perfect killing machine.”  He would not have been able both physically and mentally to murder the victim if he had to strangle him, bludgeon him, or stab him.   Only the gun assured him success.  He goes on to say that a fellow prisoner, a friend of the victim, tried to avenge his friend’s death by stabbing Lennon with a shiv.  He stabbed Lennon six times, but Lennon survived.  A gun would have killed him instantly.  He also admits he had suicidal thoughts in prison, but since he didn’t have access to a gun, he didn’t attempt suicide.  Hanging is the best option in prison, but it is difficult and grim.  He opted for living instead.

Near the end of the article Lennon concludes: “I’m all for the market system, but when the products are killing machines, why shouldn’t we tighten measures to keep guns out of the hands of people like me.  Or in other words, let’s not place a stumbling block before the blind. 

We have the responsibility to curb senseless gun violence. We have formed our team to curb gun violence in order to do our part.  If you want to join us at Marathon JCC, our next meeting to curb gun violence will be Monday, January 13, 2014 at 7:45 p.m.