Long Days and Short Years

just trying to pay attention so I don't miss my life

A Rabbi’s Words about the Zoo Tragedy


For those of you who, like me, are still ‘sitting with’ the tragedy that happened last Sunday at the zoo (see previous post), I want to share a response that I just encountered in our local newspaper.  Written by a Rabbi who is also down the road from the zoo, it speaks about the necessity of silence in the face of such great suffering.


I re-post it for you because this family and the bystanders are still heavy on my heart.  I have heard so many words about this tragedy, and the majority have been each individual’s interpretation of who was to blame for it.  I get this–we want to know why it happened and how such a thing could have been avoided.  Coming up with an explanation gives some comfort.  If only the mother or the zoo or the bystanders… or God… would have acted differently… then…

I get this.  I “wear my heart outside of my body” (i.e. in my oh-so-very-mortal children) too.

But I still think that this Rabbi has a point.


2 thoughts on “A Rabbi’s Words about the Zoo Tragedy

  1. Oh, Jen – thank you for sharing this. I, too, am still heavy with sadness and horror at this. This is indeed so very true and resonates with how I am grappling with this, and with an understanding of “Where is God in this?”
    I think that the blaming/explaining/trying to make “reasons” – this is our natural human response. It helps to distance us; to preserve our safety; to feel as though there is something about it that makes it NOT something that could happen to any of us. Because to face the reality of a horrific, tragic accident – that just happens sometimes – that is so much harder. It makes us feel vulnerable, and is a painful reminder of how frail life is and that we are not in control, and that we don’t know “why” sometimes. And it hurts. If there are no real “why’s: then nothing we can do could prevent such a thing happening to anyone of us. And in the midst of that, I think, what about God? I think, if I knew this mother, what would I say about God and what he thinks about this?
    – And the truths I am clinging to are similar to – and further clarified by – the thoughts shared by this Rabbi:
    1. God is God. I place my faith in this, and faith it is indeed when the unthinkable occurs and I don’t understand it. Faith is believing anyway. Because, that is, the very essence of faith. Confidence in that we don’t understand.
    2. I feel that I need to mourn, to weep with this mother, this family, our city. For the fact that we are in a broken world where sad and terrible things happen. And this truth he shares – so helpful – reminder that God is weeping with us too. His heart is also breaking.
    3. There is a time and a place to say, what can we learn from this? In my career, in health care, in quality, this is an expected response. We certainly try to do what we can to prevent such things. But, it seems that we also have at times put so much faith and reliance in this efforts that when such a thing occurs, we immediately want to fix it, explain, prevent it. This translates into a lot of blame-like statements. I think, that regardless of those details that may be appropriate to think about someday, right now is not the time. Right now is a time for mourning, and to extend our sadness in empathy to all impacted – the mother, the zoo, the bystanders. To all of us who are so keenly aware of just how “like us” they are, and how close any of us have been on any given day to a heartbreaking tragedy. Yes, Rabbi – I agree. right now, it is time for silence and for mourning. And to realize that God is right there with us, yes, this is the hope that my faith provides.

    • Well said Becky. As one friend said, “Couldn’t we just all grieve for a week before figuring out whose fault it is?” It’s not that there isn’t a time and place for the “What can we learn from this?” question (I like the way you put this), but it’s just not the most appropriate (though perhaps natural) response right now.

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