Wilfredo Perez (L), a local bartender at a gay bar, is embraced by his partner Jackson Hollman during a vigil to commemorate victims of a mass shooting at the Pulse gay night club in Orlando, June 12, 2016.
Adrees Latif—Reuters
June 13, 2016 11:08 AM EDT
Wolpe is the Max Webb Senior Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, the author of eight books and has been named one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post.

Orlando experienced the worst mass shooting in U.S. history on Sunday. In the face of atrocity, along with shock and deep sadness, faith teaches four important lessons.

First, we must understand that cruelty and evil are the inevitable result of free choice. We can make the world better and safer, but we cannot assure that some people, motivated by their own sickness or a despicable ideology, will never do terrible things. For such acts, they—and those who inspire them—must be held accountable.

Read more: Can We Still Weep Together After Orlando?

Second, the question of evil always turns people to “why,” but more important is “what”—not why does God permit such evil, but what must we do in the face of it? Deeds shape our answers. The long lines of people prepared to donate blood, the marches in city streets, the support and love—all are a reflection of the capacity of the human heart to stretch toward those in pain.

Third, when the act is done in the name of religion, it is particularly urgent for people of faith to repudiate it. The responsibility of Muslims to disavow their connection to an attack in the name of their faith is manifest. Anyone who represents a religious world view also needs to explain that murder in the name of God is like saying savagery in the name of kindness—an oxymoron, a lie, a mockery of genuine religious ideals. Religion is a powerful force, and when it is mobilized for evil, we see results like ISIS and Al Qaeda. All of us who care for God’s good name in our world must

redouble our efforts to demonstrate that this is not religion, this is not worship, this is not God—this is a heinous and twisted ideology that must be destroyed.

Finally, people of faith must renew their embrace of the disaffected and marginalized. The prejudice against the LGBTQ community in our own cities, synagogues or churches did not spur this act of murder; indeed, in a paradoxical way, acceptance may have triggered it, because the hating mind sees loving as a threat. But those of us who understand that hate can not only be battled by force of arms but also by force of heart, who know that embrace is a strategy of victory, will open our arms wider and hold others closer.

Read more: The Gay Bar as Safe Space Has Been Shattered

Nothing can erase the anguish for the loss of so many lives and the pain in endless circles that spreads out among the families and friends of those killed and injured. There is a way to snatch some blessing from the carnage, however: we can grow more, accept more, love more. May the memories of those who died bequeath us this blessing.

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