Last Friday night, we gathered as a congregation for a service of hope and healing. As many of you know, Friday night (when we’re not serving dinner or having a program) does not draw the crowds we get on Shabbat morning, but this Friday was different. We set up our sanctuary into a series of concentric circles. We asked those with close family in Israel to sit in the inner circle, physically showing their proximity to the center, to those who are feeling the brunt of the violence. Our community surrounded them on the outside. Fortunately, there were more people who came than chairs set up, so they created another circle around the outer circle.
Congregants shared Kavanot/intentions before the prayers we sing during Kabbalat Shabbat, and rather than welcoming each other in, we comforted each other after Lecha Dodi saying the words, “HaMakom Yinachem Etchecm B’Toch Sha’ar Aveilei Tzion, U’Yerushalayim/May you be comforted along with the mourner’s of Zion and Jerusalem.” The phrase, reminding us of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, took on new meaning as we were mourning the losses in Zion, the land of Israel, after the largest mass murder of Jews in a single day, October 7, 2023, since the Holocaust. The Jewish people are still sitting shiva after this horrific attack.
I came to Shaarei Kodesh that evening uneasy, filled with anxiety and grief, but seeing so many of our chaverim/congregants united together, and realizing that synagogues all over the world were also gathering, lifted my soul and I was again hopeful for the future. That evening, I went on a Shabbat walk with our daughter, and I asked her, “do you want to visit Israel?” She said, “Of course, but after the war.” I asked, “But how do you know Israel will win?” She said, “Because Israel is strong.” Then she paused, looked up at me and said, “And Hashem is with Israel and us.” I have to admit, I shed a tear as she said that. It marked a new beginning in a sense for me. As a grandson of four Holocaust survivors, hearing their horrific stories firsthand, I grew up with the shadow of fear and uncertainty regarding our place in the world. But our children have grown up with a level of faith in our people and the state of Israel that is unmarred by the horrors of our past. This is just one of many reasons why I remain hopeful even during this dark time.
On Tuesday night, I was filled with hope again as our combined youth group met to have a program about Israel, led by our youth. Our high schoolers learned about the conflict from journalist (and chaverim) Ilene Prusher and Rabbi Nachshon Carmi, while our middle schoolers processed the events through Israeli songs that fit the mood of the tragedy we experienced.
Our Friday night service was a powerful testament to the resilience and unity of our community and our people. In the face of such a tragic event, it was uplifting to see everyone come together to support one another and to express their hope and faith in a better future. The symbolism of the concentric circles and the sharing of Kavanot/intentions served as a poignant reminder of our collective strength and our shared connection to the land of Israel, and each other. On Tuesday night, our youth stood up and took the lead in standing up for Israel.
Unfortunately, we are not at the end, but just the beginning. My beracha for all of us is that we hold that same faith that my daughter had that Shabbat evening, and the same faith our teens have in Israel. We just stay strong and committed to Israel and the Jewish people for the long term.
May we continue to come together as a community in times of joy and in times of sorrow, and may we always find strength and comfort in God and in each other.
Rabbi David Baum
To listen and read about Israel:
After services, before Shabbat Mincha, we will read and discuss the following article by Yehuda Kurtzer of the Hartman Institute:
Also, I highly recommend the following podcast by Israeli author Micah Goodman on the What Matters Now Podcast- "Vow To Stand With Israel When It Fires Back"
Next week, please visit www.rabbidavidbaum.com where I will offer even more information on how we can support Israel and each other during this dark hour.
Israel Update Website - For those looking for resources from the Conservative movement, please visit this page which includes vetted charities to donate to, prayers and readings to download, recurring Zoom meetings, and more.