Thursday night, over a hundred community members gathered at Congregation Har HaShem for a program organized by Haver to show our commitment and love for our brothers and sisters in Israel. Rabbis, teachers, community leaders and members, and Israelis spoke about the horrendous attacks that have taken place in Israel since the beginning of October. The event wrapped up with prayers for the State of Israel and a singing of “Hatikvah.”
The event was organized and sponsored by Haver, Congregation Bonai Shalom, Congregation Har HaShem, Boulder JCC, JEWISHcolorado, Hillel of Colorado and Chabad at CU.
Morah Yehudis Fishman, one of the teachers who spoke, had this to say:
Reb Zalman once spoke about someone who when shown the x-ray of a patient in critical condition, yawned, and mumbled, ‘interesting.’ Then the person was told, ‘this belongs to your brother.’ The person was in shock. My friends, we are being shown the unbearable distress of our brothers and sisters in Israel and we can’t just sit back and yawn. But what can we do? A slew of suggestions are hurled at us from so many directions.
Beyond military and political reactions, we as Jews are asked to respond on a more eternal level. Of course, charitable support and solidarity trips are of vital importance. But in addition, as Rabbi Greene was quoted in a pre-installation interview, ‘To make our journeys meaningful, we need Torah in our lives.’ There is a verse in Proverbs, ‘Ki nair mitzvah…Rabbi Steinzaltz points out that each soul has a unique verse in Torah that is their guiding light- perhaps this is the Jewish version of ‘Soul Power.’ And the sages also tell us that the best metaphor for light itself is the one mitzvah connected with light, the light that ushers in the Sabbath and holidays.
This mitzvah is engraved in the tablets of the Ten Commandments, in only five Hebrew words- words that transformed billions of people to this day. They are the words, ‘Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.’ From these five words transmitted originally to the Israelites in the desert, billions of followers of Abrahamic faith have been inspired to take one day out of seven to rest and renew, whatever that looks like in practical expression, with a primary purpose of increasing awareness and =dedicating their lives to a higher power, and a both common and un-common vision for a peaceful, cooperative humanity.
‘This Sabbath Jews all around the globe, from all denominations, are gathering to commiserate with our suffering brethren in Israel. And this Shabbat also happens to be the 11th of Cheshvan, the yahrzeit of our beloved mother Rachel who agreed to be buried on the road to Bethlehem so that her pleas of behalf of her descendants would reach to the highest heavens, even as she was unable to raise her own children in her lifetime, and as so many Jewish children in Israel are in these troubled times, unable to be raised by their parents in their own lifetimes.
There is something simple we can all do; tomorrow, in addition to lighting Shabbat candles, light one more with a prayer for peace, safety, healing and harmony in Israel and the world. The sages say in the midrash Yalkut Shimoni: If you keep the mitzvah of the Shabbos candles, I will show you the lights of Zion.’ Furthermore, they say that when the light of the Shabbat candles are rising, it is the deepest most potent moment of prayer in the entire week.
Rebbe Nachman wrote about two kinds of fire; fire that consumes and fire that illuminates. Perhaps the more illuminating light that fills the world, the less will be the consuming fire. When those lights are present, we don’t ignore the dark, but something beyond the dark enters our lives, and helps us to see everything from a more encompassing and unifying perspective.
All that is Jewish, past present and future comes from a Torah context. Lest we as Jews around the world feel helpless in the current horrific situation, we can gain perspective from the one couple in this week’s Torah portion who brought the concept of one G-d to a fragmented, idolatrous, and warring world. Abraham whose tent was open on all four sides to passing strangers including idolaters, is the epitome of Chesed, lovingkindness. But the same Abraham would not stand idly by when his contentious nephew was kidnapped. With a tiny army- or even as the sages say- only his faithful servant Eliezer, he gathered allies and miraculously rescued his nephew, to the amazement of the nations around him.
Even Ben Gurion once declared, ‘In Israel, if you don’t believe in miracles, you’re not a realist.’
I’d like to conclude with a message sent to me by a young man whom I held on my lap when he got his 3 rd year haircut, had his bar mitzvah here in Boulder, made Aliyah, and is now is actually supervising lone soldiers in Israel; His name is Sholom Dov Ber: ‘REGARDLESS OF WHETHER OR NOT HAVING AN AFFILIATION WITH ISRAEL AND THE JEWISH PEOPLE COULD BE HARD FOR YOU AT WORK, AT HOME, OR IN YOUR PERSONAL LIFE, NEVER FORGET WHAT YOU ARE, WHO YOU ARE, AND WHAT THAT MEANS.’