Shooting may have claimed future Esthers

First, it was Columbine in 1999. Thirteen dead. Thirteen years later, 26 dead at Sandy Hook. Last week, Parkland, Florida: 17 dead. In the interim between first and most recent (I’m afraid to say “last”), there have been 25 school shootings in our beloved country.
My Boubby the Philosopher would have said “There’s something wrong when children die before their parents.” She knew that from personal experience. I hum under my breath that old refrain of Peter, Paul and Mary: “When will they ever learn?” The “they” is us…
Last Saturday’s Dallas Morning News proved without having to say so that at least two of the most recent victims were Jews. We know because their funerals were reported on the front page: Alyssa Alhadeff, age 14, at Star of David Chapel; Meadow Pollack, 18, at Temple Kol Tikvah. We know because they were buried first, because we Jews do not wait to inter our dead. Who can imagine the unfulfilled plans, the future dreams their loving parents buried with them?
We are readying for Purim, eager for our annual romp, a time of costumes and groggers, of honoring Esther, that most reluctant of heroines, the queen who saved her people. Our people. How can the families of those two martyrs make merry? They will be welcomed as mourners into their separate congregations tomorrow evening; they will join in the welcome of the Sabbath Queen. Maybe they will be thinking, as I am now, that their daughters might have grown up to be queens themselves. Perhaps they too might have been brought to high estate at some time in their future lives, as Mordecai reminded his niece that she had been, for something great, something important, something of benefit to many people.
About these two, we will never know. When children die before their parents, their futures are forever unknown; left are only tears, and “why’s” and “what if’s” — all those great questions for which there are no answers here on earth. Potentials unexplored. Achievements unrealized. Never to be mended holes in the hearts of their loving families.
But we should consider this, especially at Purim this year: There have been other Esthers in our Jewish history, other women who may not have saved an entire people, but who have contributed to the betterment of many, in many ways, in many fields of endeavor; right here in our country, called on in their varied, different lives, they have done so, and they are still doing so. This is something we might all think about as we boo the villain Haman and cheer our heroine Esther.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is an Esther. Natalie Portman is an Esther. Aly Raisman is an Esther. And Gabby Giffords is an Esther. Just a few of the Jewish women in our own time and place who have stepped forward — albeit often reluctantly — to stand proudly as forces for real good. Ginsburg, the living symbol of law in the highest court of our land. Portman, portraying the iconic Jackie Kennedy on the big screen and in the process becoming an icon of sorts herself. Raisman, speaking out on behalf of many abused after years of painful silence — the speaking out in its way even more painful than the silence. And Giffords, who by all rights should have died from the shot to her head, but has lived on to fight for that most elusive of needs in our time and place: gun control. Who can say that she was not raised to her own governmental high estate just for this?
My Boubby the Philosopher was from an older time; she would have read her paper, first cheered that the shooter didn’t have a distinctively Jewish name, then turned to the sacred business of mourning the dead. Her Jewish dead, and all the others. And now, we must do the same, for all the others, but especially for our lost potential Esthers.

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