There is a line in a meditation found in a prayer book which reads “It is hard to sing one oneness when our world is not complete”.
I kept hearing this line in my mind since last Shabbat when we became fixed to TV and the war. With each newscast and with each new revelation, this line kept repeating. No, our world is far from complete. Indeed, the world, as we knew it before last Shabbat, may never return. When we look at the Israel-Gaza crises and couple it with Ukraine, the clown show that is the U.S. Congress and add to the mix the range of natural and political disasters that greet us every day, it is no wonder that there is so much anxiety.
I also began to think about our generation and our interface with Israel in our lifetime. For most of us we were way too young, or not even born in 1948. A few of us may remember news of the war in the mid 1950’s. But most of us, I bet, do remember the 6-Day War. I recall vividly the new of the Yom Kippur War as I was on the bima as a recently ordained assistant rabbi. I was in Los Angeles, and I recall a buzz in the congregation as news filtered through the crowd. We have witnessed numerous “incursions” and their aftermath, but this week moved us into a totally different reality. No matter what your relationship with Israel may be, this week cannot help but strike all of us as something radically different. The images alone, from Israel and Gaza, are numbing. The eyewitness accounts; chilling and frightening. It is a sad reality that this pogrom has killed more Jews in one day than in any day since the Holocaust!
In speaking with people who have friends and family in Israel, some of whom have children serving in the IDF, the level of fear is palpable. The yearning for peace, sanity, revenge all flow together. At every conversation is the “how could this happen?” and “I fear it will get worse” and “when will it ever end?”. All over the world, Jewish communities have come together to be in community, to be “as one” in their support for each other and to just “be”! It is hard to sing of that hoped for “oneness” when there is so much confusion, distrust, killing and fear. And, as so many of us know, wish as we might, there is no “one” answer. The geo-political realities allow us to understand that the Gaza war is not in a vacuum. Nothing happens in isolation, and that reality only heightens our fears.
Many of us ask what we can do, how can we help. There are many organizations, from denominational groups to Jewish organizations, from Federations to Israeli organizations that are reachable via the web. Money and supplies will be needed. As will faith! In congregations all over the world we will read on this coming weekend, the story of Creation. At services we will read prayers such as Alenu that speak of a time that we all hope for, a time of peace. We will sing oseh shalom and hope to channel attitudes of peace. But let me suggest an additional act, one that may have more lasting consequences, one that so many of my colleagues will no doubt speak about this weekend.
Each of, especially our generation that has lived through so much, each of us is a messenger, a conduit of Jewish history, belief, and practice. Each of us can be a blessing, a blessing to our families and community. Now is the time to assert one’s pride in our Judaism. Many of us are grandparents. Our generation, especially now, has the blessing of being a living conduit of Jewish pride to our grandchildren. How we act, how we practice and embrace our Jewish heritage can serve as a living role model to these younger people. What a powerful act that can be, to mentor the next generations, to instill, by what we do and say, the pride of being Jewish. Likewise, in our encounters with friends and co-workers, let us not shirk from having the conversations about our Judaism and Israel. Let us not be afraid to call out evil. We are responsible for each other. These may be difficult conversations, especially with our non-Jewish friends. But we must have them.
This is, as my colleagues are reminding us, a time for unity. We each can play a part in this trauma. Let us not be afraid to speak out, to act and to take pride in who we are: our history as well as our future.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.