Jews with Views – Tu BiShvat Edition 5784

What lessons must we learn from the events of the last 3 months?

 

BY RABBI MENACHEM SEBBAG

After the massacre, I felt numb; there were no words I could utter to reflect the unfolding horror or bring healing. No words I could utter would avoid the traps of equivocation, bias, or other human failings. Facing this magnitude of brokenness, I felt wholly inadequate. Though we are physically far from what is transpiring, we mourn and worry together as one. We read, listen and feel the pain and sorrow. We look at our children and see the orphans, we look at our wives and see the widows and we imagine ourselves as parents burying our own children.

I watched as our community found solace in gratitude for the elements of life that were once taken for granted. Amidst the tragedy, a profound sense of appreciation arose for the blessings inherent in everyday existence, echoing our tradition’s emphasis on gratitude as a cornerstone of spiritual practice. Hakarat hatov, recognizing the good, underscores the importance of appreciating the positive aspects of life. These tragic times are a stark reminder of the fragility of existence, prompting introspection within the community about the value of safety, community, and the sanctity of life itself.

We have begun to reflect on the significance of traditions that foster resilience and unity. The strength drawn from shared rituals, the support of the community, and the continuity of faith have become renewed pillars of gratitude. I have seen this ongoing tragedy elevate the appreciation for the intangible aspects of Jewish identity, reinforcing a sense of belonging.

Mumbling the birchot hashachar has become a thing of the past. We are now truly thankful for the simple things in life! May Hashem protect our brave soldiers, bring back our captives and heal those wounded in body and spirit.

Rabbi Menachem Sebbag is the rabbi of AMOS (Amsterdam Modern Orthodox Synagogue).

BY REBBETZIN ELISE PETER-APELBAUM

What happened in Israel on October 7 made me realize how important it is for Jews to always be prepared and to know where evil is lurking. We unfortunately saw how many antisemites and envious people live among us around the globe. We must never rest on our laurels and think that other people take us as equals. On the contrary, we must always be vigilant and ready to defend ourselves.

In that context, it was fascinating to see how Jews have stood up and united after October 7. It didn’t matter if someone was more orthodox or less, if one observes all the mitzvot or only a few. We were united and together again. And this is where I see our Jewish strength. In the face of global hatred, we proudly stood together and stood strongly together for Israel, our country.

As a yoetzet halacha, I also witnessed the strength and dedication of Jewish women. Despite the war, despite the difficulties of being home alone with their kids while their husbands are at war, despite the constant red alerts warning about rockets, they are making incredible efforts to continue running their home with Jewish values. I stand in awe. 

Rebbetzin Elise Peter-Apelbaum is the Head of Mizrachi Prague in Czechia where she lives with her husband, Chief Rabbi David Peter, and their five children. She recently graduated as a yoetzet halacha and plans to help women in Czechia and France.

BY LEON GAMAROFF

Prior to October 7, from my home in Australia, I witnessed a battle between two opposing camps in Israel, centered on proposed changes to the judicial system surrounding the Supreme Court of Israel. As a Jew living in chutz la’aretz, I was deeply saddened by the mass protests and hatred expressed through words and deeds. “Far right” or “far left,” “secular” or “religious,” “democratic” or “anti-democratic” – the words used throughout that time emphasized differences and opposition.

On October 7, Hamas terrorists invaded Israel and massacred, tortured and kidnapped over 1,200 Jews. They didn’t distinguish between us – whether a Jew was left-wing or right-wing, for or against a two-state solution, or secular or religious. They simply massacred Jews or anyone associated with Jews – just as the Nazis did.

The lesson is clear. Jews focus far too much on our differences, and not nearly enough on what we have in common and what binds us together as a nation. We must all do our absolute best to change this and emphasize what unifies us – not what divides us.

Leon Gamaroff is a management consultant in Australia, and is currently in Israel as a volunteer during the war.

BY  TAMAR KRIEGER

The war began right as we were introducing a new foundation to improve education in Israel. Rather quickly, it was I who got a lesson in education. I learned about Israelis’ resilience, our people’s deep-rooted commitment to each other, and our society’s extraordinary resilience. My mind-frame shifted from what support can we provide Israel to the understanding that in so many ways, Israel already has what it needs; the people of Israel are its great strength and that the world needs Israel more than Israel needs the world. 

As an olah, the last few months have made me feel more Israeli than ever before. I feel part of something so much larger than myself. I feel safer here under the threat of rockets than I do outside of Israel, where overt and latent antisemitism are constantly lurking. Here my enemy is clear, but in the United States and Europe it is often hiding just beneath a polite veneer.

Although I miss my friends and family, I now realize that I am a part of a family of about 10 million Israelis. I am deeply touched by their acts of kindness, love, strength, and communal support, as well as the spirituality of the people. We are all expressing our innate potential under fire: Israel is strong because its people are committed to their nation and to each other.

Tamar Krieger is the executive director of the Tzemach David Foundation.

BY RABBI AMINADAV GROSSMAN

“I really shouldn’t complain, so many others have it worse.” I’ve heard this sentiment repeatedly in the last few months alongside any admission of suffering or trauma.

My wife Rachel often speaks of army wives who inevitably end conversations about their challenges by saying things like “…but I really can’t complain, my husband is able to come home.” Or another who hasn’t heard from her husband stationed on the Lebanon border in weeks, “I can’t complain, at least my husband isn’t in Gaza.” And from the woman whose husband is in Gaza, “I can’t complain, he’s alive and well.” Even the woman whose husband in miluim tragically died from his wounds said at shiva when we visited, “I can’t complain, at least I got to part from him in the hospital.” 

Mi k’amcha Yisrael… The suffering is real and it’s important to validate the range of emotional responses. But so is hakarat hatov. The dual perspective of deeply feeling our loss and looking for blessings – not silver linings – lends meaning to our lives.

Chazal point out that Leah was the first to express hoda’a (gratitude) when she named Yehuda, perhaps precisely because of the backdrop of her feeling distanced from Ya’akov, evidenced by the names of her previous children. True gratitude is only possible when we feel the pain in our lives, which highlights the blessings of daily life. This coexistence of suffering and gratitude is the Torah’s path to resilience. 

Rabbi Aminadav Grossman is the Rav of Beit Knesset Carmei Zion in Carmei Gat and the mental health professional for overseas students at Yeshivat Har Etzion. He is an alumnus of Mizrachi’s Shalhevet and Musmachim programs, and serves as a reservist at the Shura base of the army rabbinate.

© 2024 World Mizrachi

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