As the holiday of lights comes to an end, we consider the miracles that have brought us to this place and time, shecheyanu, v’kiyamanu l’zman hazeh. We have seen miracles worked through the hands of “everyday people”, who stopped the death toll from climbing. I have seen the miracle that is the response of an amazing nation, a family (the Litmans) who opened their arms to the nation at their time of mourning and a nation that responded and embraced them, a family and whole city/area which stayed positive despite losing their most optimistic role model, Rav Yaakov Don, z’l.
This year has not been an easy one, with so many attacks in the past few months and so many times we have had to hear the world calling for “restraint on both sides”. I am tired of it, I really am. What I am tired of is the world’s judgement, because although I know we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard, there are only so many times one can listen to others saying we are wrong, again. Wrong for defending ourselves, wrong for living where we live, wrong for everything we do. The Jewish nation has a long and difficult past, with being driven from our land and followed by constant persecution, continuous made up lies and blood libels all designed to allow others to say, “Look, they deserve to be killed.” Yet somehow, we survived. Words from a Chanukah song come to mind, an English version of Maoz Tzur that I learned as a child in Jewish Day school in America: “No annihilation, will ever wipe away our nation.”
Just two weeks ago we read about Yaakov’s meeting with Easv, and what he did to prepare: Battle, prayer and tribute. Just a few years ago we gave back Gaza — tribute. Did that gain us any peace in our fight with Esav? You tell me. We went to war last summer — yes, in Gaza. Did that peace last? It seems we are left with prayer, an avenue we know well. When things are difficult for us, we look for comfort in the words of David Hamelech, who wrote many beautiful, comforting poems, but there is one we say weekly on Shabbat which speaks to me every time I say it, especially in light of the ongoing, daily terror we currently live with: “How great are your deeds, Hashem…when the wicked bloom like grass and the doers of iniquity blossom — it is to destroy them till eternity.”
So we shall pay no mind to those who have nothing but scathing condemnation — we have every right to defend ourselves, and to stop the constant shedding of our blood. We will not sit quietly but stand up like Matityahu and defend the Jewish people physically, because battle is part of the equation. Will we try tribute again? We may have no choice, if it will get us peace. It is difficult when it seems to us that our opposition’s goal is not peace and a better life for their people but death for us. How can we know this is what they want? They are not quiet about it. It is easy to find their hate-filled speeches on YouTube, their horrible Facebook “communities”. Battle is also an option we have no choice but to choose; we have posted our soldiers all over and we, the whole nation, continue to do what we can to protect each other, ourselves and our loved ones. And most often, as I say the nightly Shema asking for G-d’s protection, or the daily prayers to defeat our enemies and bring us peace, we choose prayer. We gather to say tehillim (psalms), to be thankful for what we have and to ask for just a little more help in stopping the insanity, the constant barrage of hate from a world who looks for reasons to tell us “But you deserve this,” and death from a people who, it seems, have not yet learned to love their children more than they hate us (Golda Meir).
For those who feel helpless or hopeless right now, who wanted a miracle, I say there is still that small container of light, and we can still spread the light to fight the darkness. We stand up for ourselves, we say it is not okay to abuse and murder Jews, and we do it any way we can- battle, prayer or tribute. We can continue to fight the darkness as we always have, and this Festival of Lights will show that our small candle can make a big difference in a dark world. To quote Fellowship, “May it be a light for you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”
Wishing a chag full of light and peace on our nation and all the world.