Over the last six years, I have met a lot of very interesting people who have come to visit the Shul on the Beach. People from dozens of countries, backgrounds, and disciplines have joined us for services at Pacific Jewish Center. One of the joys of my pulpit is meeting many fascinating people.
This week trumped them all.
A nearly blind elderly man, escorted by a 20something young man ambled his way through the entrance to the shul. As per usual, he was greeted warmly by shul members. The elderly man declined a siddur explaining that he couldn’t see anyway.
We’ve encountered two very public suicides in the last couple of weeks. The death of Robin Williams resonated with millions of people around the world. This week, the death of IDF Lone Soldier Dave Gordon is being considered a suicide.
Understandably, suicide is a very difficult subject. Tensions and emotions tend to run high. You should see some of the emails and messages I’ve received in the wake of my article about Dave. One of the fundamental suicide issues is whether the act of taking one’s life willingly is actually a moral choice made by the deceased or is suicide just the end of a long struggle with one’s mental health and would be more accurately described as succumbing to suicide than guilty of suicide. Another important question for Jews, like friends and family of Dave Gordon, is how Jewish law handles suicide.
For a few hours on Tuesday, the Jewish world’s attention was focused on a missing IDF soldier. David Menachem Gordon was reported as missing and Jews around the world were fearful that he had been abducted by terrorists.
David’s body was found. David was dead. He was not abducted by terrorists in Gaza. He was not killed by Hamas terrorists.
But Dave, as he was known to his friends, had been “missing” for years. He had been abducted by a different kind of terrorist in his childhood years. Terrorists in Michigan. Jewish terrorists. These terrorists took Dave’s childhood innocence from him. These terrorists took Dave’s life from him, and after all these years, the pain became too much for Dave to endure.