BY RABBI SHLOMO PINKUS / AJT //

The Mayan calendar indicated that, around this time, the world would end.

Well, the Mayans were right: The world that we knew has been shattered. We have, unfortunately, suffered a great loss; many refer to this as the Sandy Hook incident.

But what happened in Newtown, Conn. is more than a loss and more than an incident. It’s a tragic outcry of pain coming from the body and souls of all who have heard of the tragedy.

The massacre is the bleak reality of what can happen when a person decides to go down the dark path of evil. We have suffered, we have cried, we have prayed and we have lost; we have held our heads low and placed our flags at half-staff. We have looked for reasons, explanations, excuses for the inexcusable and ways to stop the unstoppable.

In late December, the last of the 26 beautiful lives that were taken from us set off on their journey to their final resting places. So what do we do now? The pain is still here, the loss is still felt, and the repercussions from the actions of that day – good and bad – will be felt for an indeterminable length of time.

The families of the victims will never be the same. They will never again feel the full extent of the warmth or comfort that so many of us take for granted every day. Still, we all must move on, and we all must grow.

But we also must somehow not lose sight of what has happened. Otherwise, all is lost.

We ask: How do we go forward with such mixed emotions, with such hardship and pain? The answer is in the question.

We move forward with the pain; we remember the emptiness, the void that can be left in the wake of evil. We remember what great pain can be caused by another person’s emptiness.

And although our flags were flown at half-staff, we must remain optimists in the future and realize that, even in the darkest times, our banners are still there. Our flags are still waving, reminding us all that our strength is in our unity.

Even if we have not met the families of the victims, we all feel their pain. We will grow together, and we will become more responsive to one another’s pain. We will learn to appreciate our relationship with the Holy One, blessed be He who gives us both the good and the better, even when we don’t understand His will.

And we will appreciate our relationship with our family, friends, neighbors and community. This is how we move on by not forgetting what has happened; by using our pain and the pain of others to improve the world around us; to teach us to be kinder, softer-hearted people.

Remember that, no matter what Congress or any government says or does, we can never stop pain from entering this world. But we can work on loving one another and caring for each other, and thus perhaps minimize the pain around us and make the world a better place.

Even though their travels on the path of life was cut short, maybe by improving our prayers and character, we will help the victims of Sandy Hook complete their journey.

I offer this wish with all my sorrow and all my love.

Rabbi Shlomo Pinkus is a rabbinic field representative for the Atlanta Kashruth Commission.