Rabbi’s Shabbat Message

Hello from Israel. In anticipation and partnership! Shabbat Shalom!

I write to you from the Holy Land. Yesterday, along with a group of communal members, we touched down in Israel for a five-day solidarity mission. More important now than ever.

We plan to visit those displaced from evacuated kibbutzim, families of hostages, hospital patients, soldiers, dignitaries, volunteers on the ground and many more.
We will greet them with meaningful gifts, food, encouragement, prayers and blessings.

Whilst we are not trained soldiers in the art of warfare and cannot engage in direct combat with our enemies, we can and choose to fight for our homeland in our own powerful way.

To the people of Israel we declare to you all in no uncertain terms: we are here for you. We stand with you. We feel your pain and loss. We hear your cries. We are here to lift your spirits and show our support and love in any way we can.

It’s only been a day, but what struck me the most is the mood here. An entire nation is holding its breath. Waiting for the long overdue hostage release. Waiting. Hoping. Praying.

Soulful solidarity is the backbone of this special nation. As one of our participants quietly remarked, “People keep saying to me, ‘well done for going’ – but I don’t see it like that. To me it is a privilege and I just feel so fortunate to have this opportunity to show my support.”

In this week’s Torah portion, we read about the birth of Jacob’s sons, the future heads of the twelve tribes. Moses later declares about two of Jacob and Leah’s children, “Rejoice, Zevulun, in your departure, and Yissachar, in your tents.”

Rashi explains that “Zevulun and Yissachar entered into a partnership. Zevulun would dwell at the seashore and go out in ships, to trade and make profit. He would thereby provide food for Yissachar, who would, in turn, sit and occupy themselves with the study of Torah.”

Sound familiar? In many ways, this special partnership continues until this very day. During this urgent time, with Am Yisrael at war, the collaboration is no different.

Our brave IDF soldiers are fighting on the front lines to defend the Jewish people. You and me. Simultaneously, our davening, learning and merits have meaning. They matter, they make a difference. I have been very moved by so many soldiers looking directly into camera and telling Klal Yisrael just how valuable all prayers around the world truly are. I have been very moved by so much already.

There needs to be an exchange of energy – physical and spiritual. It is a timeless partnership with Hashem.

Our soldiers and their families are giving of themselves, heart and soul. For our cause, for our destiny and we can and must do our part to leave our comfort zone, push ourselves, maximize our time and efforts committing to contributing in so many ways.

Rabbi Efrem Goldberg recently reflected that a friend within his community has chosen not to eat any chocolate since the war started. Each time he is tempted, he reminds himself of the conditions the soldiers are living in and decides he can forego this small pleasure – yes, in solidarity.

He asks, “What adjustments are we making to our lives and routines to reflect that for so many of our people, nothing is normal? … Do our simchas reflect our condition or do they carry on as if no existential threat faces our people? Can we complain about petty discomforts or inconveniences while members of our family are sleeping on the floor, outdoors under trees, fighting not only our enemies, but the elements like bitter cold and rain?”

Passing up on a square of chocolate or forgoing an elaborate holiday or simcha does not directly eliminate Hamas. Yet it does connect us to our people and on a small scale, help us resonate with their conditions. The outpouring of heartfelt tefillot makes the world of difference. Nothing gets a parent’s attention or response more than children caring about one another and feeling each other’s pain.

The lives of our precious soldiers and of all our brothers and sisters in Israel has been severely disrupted, with some tragically lost already. These are extraordinary times, we cannot and must not carry on in ordinary ways.

Shabbat Shalom from the Holy Land,
Rabi Levi and Chanie Wolff