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#TorontoStrong Interfaith Vigil

It was a real privilege to participate in the Interfaith Vigil at Mel Lastman Square last Sunday evening. It was an honour to represent Holy Blossom Temple and the Jewish Community at this gathering where every human face could be seen and languages from every continent could be heard. The rabbis, ministers, imams, monks, and the Poet Laureate, did our best to comfort the bereaved families who were given seats of honour by the stage. We did our best to reassure those who were shaken by the attack and are afraid to go back out into the neighbourhood. The police and first responders were the heroes of the day and received heartfelt applause from the crowd. Our political leaders – the Mayor, Premier, Prime Minister, and Governor General – were admired for coming to the vigil without taking to the microphone. I don’t know how the decision was made, but it is noteworthy that this attack on our city was not politicized in any way. Just their mere presence spoke volumes. The ceremony was long and the day grew cold, but people remained until the last song was sung, the last prayer prayed, and the last memorial candle delivered. Toronto truly is a magnificent city.

Here are the few words I shared to rally the people as the day turned to night:

Virtually every language and every faith tradition has a word like “Amen.” It means: “I believe in that.” So if you believe in the following statements – no matter your faith or your lack of faith – if you believe in these declarations of solidarity, I invite you to raise your voices together and respond with: “Amen.”

We believe we are among some of the luckiest people on the planet, because we get to live in the extraordinary city of Toronto. Amen.

We believe the temperature may still be cold in this town, but as we stand here shoulder to shoulder tonight our hearts are warm. Amen.

We believe our city has been shaken, but only for a day, because we know who we are, we know what we stand for, and we know what we will NOT stand for. Amen.

We believe violence will not become normalized here, God forbid. Tonight we say loud and proud and in one voice: “Not here. Such hatred has no place in my home!” Amen.

And we will not be afraid of one another. We believe that 99 point-something percent of the people who live here are good and decent, hardworking and trustworthy. Amen.

We believe there is strength in our diversity and security in our civility. Amen.

We believe ultimately love wins out over hate. Amen.

We believe justice is ambitious and compassion is powerful. Amen.

We pledge to one another that we will continue to build this city strong with the building blocks of human kindness, decency, and yes, as we saw last week, courage, whenever necessary. Amen.

Elie Wiesel once taught: “Hope is like peace. It is not a gift from God. Hope is a gift only we can give one another.” So, tonight and every night, let us give to one another, let us receive from one another the gifts of hope renewed and peace restored. Amen.

In the Jewish tradition there is a prayer for when the day grows dark and the shadows fall and we worry we may lose our way. That’s when we ask for God’s protection.

 Hashkiveinu, Adonai Eloheinu, l’Shalom.
V’Ha’amideinu, Malkeinu, l’chayim. (chanted)

O God on High, watch over us as we come and go along the streets and sidewalks of this good and great city. O God who is close, be with us now so we may know only life and peace. And let us say together: Amen.

Here is the link to the Interfaith Vigil: Special coverage: Vigil for Toronto (Rabbi Splansky’s address begins at 49:30)

Link to Toronto Star Article: ‘It hasn’t broken us’ – #TorontoStrong vigil filled with messages of grief and resilience

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Showing 4 comments
  • Rabbi Yael Splansky

    Thank you, Tema, Tere, and Sidney, for this kindness. It was indeed a privilege to participate in the Interfaith Vigil. What an extraordinary city. We are fortunate to call Toronto home.

  • Tema Title

    I was at the vigil and was comforted as you spoke in such an outstanding and meaningful way. I was so proud to be represented as a Temple member, a Jew and a citizen of Toronto. Yasher Koach and thank you.

  • Tere

    Rabbi you made us feel so proud to belong to HBT because as our spiritual leader you always find the right words to make us feel better. This time around it was the City of Toronto. Thank you!

  • Sidney Aster

    I was not at the vigil but am happy to have caught your wonderful words here. These certainly rose to the occasion. Yasher Koach.

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