Let me first apologize for the length of this post…there is a lot to say. I want to begin by saying that I value life over anything else. Innocent people (especially children) who lose their lives because of the actions of another should never happen. My heart cries out to all of those in the world (everywhere in the world) who have lost their loved ones – children, women, men, etc.
In war, people die. Period. Hard stop. It is not a good thing; it is just an inevitability and a reality. The reasons why wars are fought – that discussion is where things get complicated. Too many times in world history, wars have been fought over religious or political disagreements or misunderstandings. The first “laws of war” can be traced all the way back to the Code of Hammurabi, in 1750 BCE.
Today, when there is a conflict of war or aggression, we often hear the words “International Laws of War.” Today, Israel finds herself in a war she did not start nor wanted to fight. On October 7, 2023, armed terrorists from HAMAS – an organization that has as its mission to destroy Israel (to push the Jews into the sea) – infiltrated the sovereign land of Israel – and brutally massacred more than 1200 innocent Israelis. HAMAS also abducted hundreds of hostages – men, women, and children.
Now – Israel vows to destroy HAMAS and prevent this war from occurring once again in the future. It seems that no matter what Israel does – the world holds them to a much higher standard than any other country. News agencies report that innocent Palestinians in Gaza are being prevented from escaping…and are running out of basic humanitarian needs such as food, water, and medicine.
Let us examine this – why are they not being allowed to leave or escape to the safe zone that Israel has created? Because the HAMAS led government uses them as shields and/or bargaining chips to prevent Israel from protecting herself. HAMAS has blocked highways and roads that would let the Gazans escape. And why are they running out of basic human needs? Because HAMAS is not allowing the aid in…and is blocking the Gazan people from getting their basic needs met.
Any research into the region shows that Israel has gone above and beyond time and time again to provide the people of Gaza everything they need – food, water, electricity, medicine. The leaders of HAMAS – what about them? Well, they live in gorgeous palace type homes…and they do not starve or go without…
In February 2023, I joined hundreds of thousands of Israelis on the streets of Israel to protest this corrupt and awful Israeli government. Why? Because I completely disagreed (and still do) with many of their policies – especially regarding the Judicial Branch in Israel. I was safe, I was allowed, and I was proud to raise my voice. In Gaza, if the Palestinian people protest against their government, HAMAS, they will be killed and so will members of their families.
I live in the United States of America – and my heart is torn because of what my brothers and sisters in Israel are experiencing…and I will never stop raising my voice in support of them. Today, I see pictures of people who live in my own home country who are protesting Israel so much they are bringing back images and ideas of the bloodiest and most horrific time for Jews – the Holocaust, the Shoah in Europe in the 1930’s-1940’s.
This cannot happen here…this is what we have been taught. The USA is the “new” Promised Land…this is what we were taught.
Today – I hope that tomorrow will be different…I am afraid it will be worse.
“Rabbi check in…how you doing?”
My cell phone buzzes as I stare intently at my laptop.
A gentle check-in from a friend;
A reminder of support even as I try to offer support.
Every day brings more uncertainty and more pain.
Nails on a chalkboard…a high pitched squeal…the sound of agony and fear.
Taking a deep breath; focusing on whatever positives are there.
I live each day hoping the next day brings peace, comfort, love.
I look to my children and see their smiles, hear their laughter.
I cry for the parents who have lost their children.
I fear for those who still do not know…
I promise to continue to help, in any way I can.
God - bring an end to this…bring peace to all of us.
God - let Your light shine upon all of us.
God - be with all of us…yesterday, today and tomorrow.
God - help us…..
Lizcor: To Remember
Zachar - He remembered his boots to trample across the terrain;
He remembered his canteen for water was scarce;
He remembered his loved ones who wait in anguish for his return;
He remembered to breathe, one breath at a time.
Zach’rah - She remembered her weapon to protect herself and her brigade;
She remembered the picture of her parents to hold for comfort;
She remembered to listen to every sound she heard;
She remembered to breathe, one breath at at time.
Yizcor - He will never forget his fallen comrades, lost in the war;
He will never forget the sounds of fear, anger and frustration;
He will never forget the cries of the innocent babies;
He will never forget the last gasps of breath of those who were tortured.
Tizcor - She will never forget the sounds of the rockets falling to earth;
She will never forget the sounds of people running for shelter;
She will never forget the weeping of the devastated parents;
She will never forget those who died fighting for the freedom of others.
Nizcor - We will remember all of them, every last one;
We will remember their names and their faces;
We will remember the terror we felt, are feeling and will feel.
We will remember…we will never forget.
The sounds of a broken record; the sounds of nails on a chalk board; the sounds of rockets falling again and again..
Yes, I am very close to a lot of Israelis who find themselves in a war zone - praying every day for safety and and end to the war. We gathered together as a community for a prayer vigil in solidarity with Israel...lots of tears and emotion. Jews from around the world - and many, many, many non-Jews who are lovers of Israel as well - are terrified as we hope and pray for peace, safety and an end to the atrocities in Israel.
This afternoon, I received a text from my 17 year old daughter:
"One of my Israeli counselors from the trip was just drafted OMG...I'm worried for him."
It is very different when my children are directly affected. It is a wake up call (of sorts) of how small the Jewish community is. We say the words Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh baZeh, "All of Israel are responsible for one another." It means just what it says - Jews worldwide (All of Israel) are responsible for each other....and, yet, sometimes we just do not know how to help or what to do. So, what do we do, then?
We reach out to our Israeli connections - check in with them and find out what they need...and how they are doing. We donate to organizations that will send resources as needed. We reach out to other Jews - those we are close to and those we barely know - to show our support. We pray...we cry...we hope.
A Prayer for the Soldiers of the IDF
War in Israel once again has called you to service.
Young, old, women, men, Ashkenazi, Sephardi - all Israelis.
The faces of some of these soldiers look so young…like babies.
Every face we see - stoic, loyal, ready to protect, even while in harm’s way.
God - give these brave warriors strength and comfort from above.
HaShem - Let Your name be on their lips as they enter the chaos.
Shechinah - Protect them with Your blanket of shelter.
Imeinu - As you guide their hands and minds, please bring them peace.
A country torn by war for 75 years - every citizen knows someone
That has lost their lives or been wounded throughout the conflicts.
The tanks drive by; the guns sound in the distance; the bombs seek destruction.
Today feels different - yesterday was horrible - tomorrow must bring hope.
The Jewish community mourns the loss of all of those who have died.
The innocent ones - the children, the widows, the widowers, the siblings…
We ask for God to protect them, the soldiers as well as the civilians.
May peace come soon and may Love replace Hate….
I am a husband, father and rabbi - just trying to help to make the world a better place!