We are all still reeling from the shock and trauma of the horrific invasion and mass terrorist attack perpetrated by Hamas this last Shabbat, claiming the lives, as of now, of upwards of 900 of our brothers and sisters, including over 80 soldiers. More than 100 people–adults, children and elderly–have been taken from their homes and are being held captive by Hamas in Gaza. And Hamas’ actions have also brought about the death of over 500 Palestinian non-combatants. This has been the bloodiest day in the history of the State of Israel and the most deadly for world Jewry since the Shoah. We are devastated beyond words, but we are not defeated. As a people who believe in God, in Torah, in Jewish Peoplehood and in the State of Israel, we respond with faith, with courage and with sacrifice, with unity and with resolve.
“Beloved is the human being who was created in the Divine Image,” our Rabbis teach us in Pirkei Avot (3:14), “It is a sign of even greater love that it was made known to him that he was created in the Image, as it says, ‘In the image of God, God created the human’.”
When people know that they are created in the image of God, they value and treasure life; when they choose to not know this, they slaughter innocent people, men and women, young and old, in their homes, at a music festival. This is what brought about the destruction of the world at the time of the Flood, “for the world was filled with hamas, violence, before them.” (Bereishit 6:13).
Israel will defend herself and her people with all measures necessary. And we – wherever we are around the world – will respond to the enemy’s nihilism by coming together in an affirmation of everything we believe in: in community, in hope, in prayer and in support.
So what can we do now? Do mitzvot and acts of chesed. Reach out to your family and friends. Contact your elected officials to thank them and encourage them to stand up for Israel and for what is right. Stay informed and consume news from reputable news sources. Give tzedakah, help in material ways those who are grieving, who are displaced, who are pining after their loved ones being held captive, and those on the front lines. When the enemy chooses death, we choose life.
Our rabbis, in the United States, in Israel, and around the world, are bringing to their communities the religious leadership and spiritual and emotional support that we all so need at this time.
Our thoughts particularly go out to Rabbi Yonatan Cohen (‘06), rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel, Berkeley, whose nephew, Yoav Malayev, died heroically in defense of Medinat Yisrael in the opening hours of the war on Shabbat morning. And to our mumsakhim who are currently serving in Tzahal, including so many of our Israeli rabbis from Rikmah who have been called up or who have immediate family members serving in the front lines of this war. And to all of us who have children, friends and relatives in Israel, whether they are serving in the army, learning there for a gap year, or living there and trying to be strong, may God keep all of them safe and bring them all home b’Shalom.
We will get through this together, stronger than ever. Am Yisrael Chai. Medinat Yisrael Chai.
Rabbi Dov Linzer