Rabbi’s Shabbat Message

Israel: A Week of Sorrow & Strength

This week, Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s official Day of Remembrance, felt unlike any other in our holy nation’s history. Throughout Israel, sirens wailed, traffic came to a standstill and the entire nation stood in sorrowful silence.

Yet, not since the Yom Kippur War, more than half a century ago, has the nation mourned so many fallen soldiers along with other casualties and fatalities of terrorism within the span of one year. Since October 7th, 1596 brave people have died battling Hamas. In Judaism, each precious soul represents an entire world and each victim personifies that to their respective loved ones and communities – each murdered simply because they are Jewish.

Soberingly, it was not lost on me that the same number of people, approximately 1600, attended our meaningful Yom HaZikaron commemoration here at The Central Synagogue last Sunday night. The powerful event was simultaneously heart-breaking and soul-affirming.

In Israel, due to the ongoing war and heightened security situation, the traditional torch-lighting ceremony was performed in front of a small audience and was pre-recorded – reflecting the solemn transition from Yom HaZikaron to the joyfulness of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day. Others lit torches in Sderot, Zikim and at the site of the Nova music festival. The usual Yom Ha’atzmaut festive firework displays were cancelled this year.

At Mount Herzl’s National Military Cemetery in Jerusalem, forty-four people were chosen to light one dozen torches, representing so many including emergency services, rescuers, first responders, public diplomats, medical workers and more. There was also a torch of hope, victory and spirit, one lit for giving, another represented all Diaspora Jews. The moving ceremony concluded with the final torch stationed without bearers, symbolising the 132 hostages still held captive in Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated that Israel’s “Second War of Independence” is not over yet, with threats of an arms embargo, which also occurred back in 1948. Back then, post-Holocaust was a pivotal time in history when we were without means, few against many, fighting valiantly against five Arab armies simultaneously. “How did we win? With the spirit of our people.”

Dear Central Family, this is our secret weapon. The spirit of generations – the life-force of an age-old people. Whether in battle in Gaza, online, or on the streets, we must stand united, shoulder to shoulder as we always have.

Please G-d a speedy victory will transpire. I imagine that sometime in the near future, once this war is over, we will each be asked, “Where were you? What did you do?” How will we each answer these questions?

Although we do not all serve in a governmental capacity or in the IDF, and although we have each not amassed a global audience – we do have influence within the microcosm of our own world, no matter how small that sphere may be. We can each shine a light on our Judaism.

We can all be proud Jews in our everyday lives. Just as the world sees so many demonstrators don Palestinian keffiyehs, we too can wear our kippot or Judaica-themed jewellery. I have been approached in the street by soulful strangers who told me that simply seeing me wearing my kippah in public gives them strength.

We owe it to all to wear our Judaism with great honour and pride. When ‘future-you’ is asked what you did beyond October 7th 2023, your response will be, “I lived like a proud Jew.”

We are honoured to host a very special guest speaker this Friday night, retired British Army commanding officer, military expert and outspoken advocate for the IDF, Colonel Richard Kemp. We look forward to Colonel Kemp sharing his unique insights about the internal machinations of the IDF and so much more.

Please join us for a L’Chaim at 5pm with our Kabbalat Shabbat service commencing at 5:30pm.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Levi and Chanie Wolff