The rabbi who teaches my weekly “Dramas of Jewish History” class took a moment before starting our session yesterday to check in with us and acknowledge the Boston Marathon tragedy. I was touched by her pastoral concern in the academic setting. In the brief discussion that followed, she shared an exchange she had had the previous day with some visiting Israeli students as they watched footage of the explosions’ aftermath. Of course, in Israel sudden explosions in the street are all too familiar, so she asked, “What do you do when this happens? Do you stare at the TV all day?” I sensed wisdom in their reply: “We watch the screen. We take it in. And then we keep going.”
“Taking it in” has been difficult for me with this event. I first learned about it on Facebook Monday afternoon when a Page I follow posted prayers for Boston. Subsequent Googling led to a sketch of the basic facts; at the time, the estimated number of wounded was only 22. I could not take it in enough to even share the news on my timeline, and I closed my computer. When I checked Facebook again that evening after dinner, my news feed was filled with prayers and updates. Buoyed by the communal presence, even virtually, I began to take it in. The death of an 8-year-old boy, the serious injury of a mother and daughter who are relatives of a friend here, the selfless acts of bystanders, first responders and community at large. Before going to bed, lacking words, I prayed in the heart on a block pose.
Eventually I received what many spiritual writers call “the gift of tears.” I said little in the opening conversation at class yesterday because I was choked up. Reading in this morning’s newspaper about the trauma surgeons and the nature of the injuries they are treating, tears spilled down my cheeks. I am glad for this. It’s the only way I can really take it in. I do not want to be numb. And I want to keep going.