Newtown, Noah Pozner, and a World Reborn

Tikku olam

Tikkun olam

Some of my Facebook friends have been posting beautiful, excruciating articles about the loss of Noah Pozner, the youngest victim of Newtown. He was a twin. He was a darling child. And his family has been thoughtful, yet unflinching, in their mourning of him.

You can read the articles here and here—please be warned that they are wrenching. You may forget to breathe.

But as I read them I kept thinking about an interview I heard years ago on Speaking of Faith (before it became On Being) with Laurie Zoloth, a Jewish ethicist who studies the issues around human cloning. As you might imagine, she writes with a great deal of concern over the prospect of cloning a human being, and the tangled web of issues such a possibility would raise for society.

During the interview, Zoloth shared her experience of being part of a volunteer Jewish burial society. Jewish custom requires bodies to be buried before sundown if at all possible. Several years prior, on the day of Passover, she was called to take part in the burial preparation for a four-year-old girl. The girl had been running across the street to her father’s waiting arms when she was hit by a car. Zoloth arrived at the funeral home with the other women to prepare the body, which was horribly, heartbreakingly broken. The preparations for burial included washing the body with water, and dozens of other careful, ritualistic details. “This little girl was the tiniest person we had prepared,” Zoloth says. “I and all the other women there were frantic with grief.”

And then, this Jewish ethicist who has spoken out against human cloning went on to say, “I knew at that point that I would have cloned her. If I could have. If I’d had the technology… I didn’t care if it was risky, I wanted that baby girl back.”

And yet the mother of this little girl, a woman of deep Jewish faith, said, “If you want to bring my daughter back, I need you to go to work in the world, to do acts of loving kindness and mercy, of justice and love. That will bring her back.” This is the Hebrew concept of tikkun olam, or “healing of the world.” In Jewish theology, it is this healing, this repair of the world, that will bring the Messiah. This is what will bring the lost ones back. The mother believed that completely.

Only through a radically altered world, a world of justice, peace and mercy, would her daughter be restored.

And Zoloth realized, “It is not the body that this little girl needs, it is a world reborn that this little girl needs.”

It is a world reborn that Noah Pozner needs.

9 thoughts on “Newtown, Noah Pozner, and a World Reborn

  1. marciglass says:

    Beautiful. Thank you.

  2. Kelley says:

    Thank you, MaryAnn. It is still “too much”. I was not ready to go there this morning but maybe like Noah’s mom knowing that she “had” to see his body because it was her duty as his mother to do so…maybe we/you/I need to keep coming back to the pain because we have to change the world a step at a time.

  3. Sometimes I hold my breath when I read your words, too.

  4. Bob Braxton says:

    “Dignity of Difference” points out that even “identical” twins (same DNA) are different and so would be a clone. Healing the world is the key – the “salve” in “Salvation.”

  5. You speak so much truth here about resurrection – bodily and otherwise – without ever using the word. Beautiful.

  6. MaryAnn says:

    Thank you, all, for visiting and reading.

    I have been (perhaps unhelpfully) dissociating from a lot of the stuff about Newtown because it’s just too incomprehensible. I’m grateful to my friends for posting those articles that help puncture the numbness.

  7. Not sure why but I’ve really been fighting with the idea of new life as reconciliation for death and your sharing this really moves this conversation (that I’m having with…myself??) along a little. Thank you for writing.

  8. afeickstaedt says:


    This is a very helpful piece of writing. The comment of the little Jewish girl’s mother on what will bring her back–the idea of tikkun olam–is going to shape my approach to my Easter sermon this year. Thanks for this–and for all the other ways your writing blesses me and others.

  9. I was just participating in an online discussion about the power of mindset when someone asked “What is truth when your 8 year old is taken from you by a brain tumor?” I gave him the link to this post.

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