A Philadelphia native now living in Boston took comfort in community and tradition in the wake of the marathon bombing.
I’m Philadelphia born and raised (cue the Fresh Prince theme song), graduated from Boston University and still live and work in the Hub. I've found room in my closet for both Phillies and Red Sox caps. Though I watched from my office a couple miles away on the fateful afternoon of April 15, the Boston bombings still shook me.
Like many across the city, I had friends who were minutes away when the flags at the finish line were torn asunder. I too waited anxiously during the subsequent shoot-out and lockdown – in my case, with a suspect’s home merely three blocks from my apartment. I breathed a collective sigh of relief at his apprehension.
I’m sure I wasn’t also alone in seeking comfort in community and tradition. My local minyan was one of few in the area to hold services on that Saturday morning, gathering together to console one another, reciting Psalms for the fallen and praying for a speedy recovery for the injured. In an eerie coincidence, the first part of the weekly Torah reading was Acharei Mot, meaning “following the death,” referring to the untimely passing of Aaron’s sons.
For me, the most pertinent passage came from the second reading – Kedoshim, “holiness” – in three simple and famous words: “v’ahavta l’rei’acha kamocha – love your fellow as yourself.” Rabbi Akiva declared this to be the fundamental credo of the entire Torah, which also became the basis of the Golden Rule.
These profound words were brought to life through the actions of Boston’s citizens in the face of horror. On a grand scale, first-responders and authorities performed heroically, from the attacks to the arrest. Everyday people lived out this adage as well, helping however they could – giving blankets to stranded runners, millions of dollars to charity, even their own blood. Personally, I was overwhelmed with outpouring of friends' concern during those frightening hours, including some I haven’t been in touch with for many months.
But the most poignant reminder of this guiding principle came from a heartbreaking image that emerged after the bombings. It features eight-year-old Martin Richard, the youngest victim killed in the blasts, with a big smile, holding a hand-drawn poster which pleads, “No more hurting people. Peace.”
Out of the mouths of sages and babes, we are prompted not to wait for terror to strike to reach out to one another in kindness and generosity. Each of us can embrace the brotherly love of my hometown’s name, in large and small ways, every day.
Josh Mellits, who grew up in Bala Cynwyd, Pa., and attended day school, now lives in Cambridge, Mass.