Michael Rainsbury
Jewish Educator

All of Jewish History in Three Weeks

A week is a long time in politics, it is said. In the last three weeks, we have lived through the entirety of Jewish history. On x100 speed. With all its emotions and expressions. Re-entering the depths of despair yet being strengthened and mobilized, ready for a significant battle, not just of territory but of ideas and morals.

We have been surprised by Amalek, attacking every Jew in sight, including babies and elderly Holocaust survivors.

We have experienced brutality beyond comprehension, wilfull murder and wanton destruction reminiscent of pogroms, the Farhud and the Holocaust.

Our eyes have been flowing with tears, as we have relived the words of Eicha, seeing our land laid waste without any inhabitants.

We have seen blood libels and denials of Hamas crimes, reminiscent of medieval times and recent Holocaust denial, taking place in real time on social media and in the news.

And yet.

We have seen individual acts of bravery and battles against the odds reminiscent of the War of Independence, like David against Goliath.

We have seen 200,000 Israelis return home, many to defend the Jewish homeland, fulfilling the most noble of all mitzvot.

We have seen the mobilization of individuals and communities in Israel and around the Jewish world providing homes, military equipment, food, simcha and chizuk to soldiers and evacuated families.

We have seen unaffiliated Jews reconnecting with their Jewish heritage around the world, like in 1967, and non-Jewish allies, including important countries’ governments, standing up for Israel in the way we have always hoped for.

What about us?

We have been as consumed by rage as Dina’s brothers against Shechem, agonizing over the impossible moral dilemmas we have been forced into by enemies who have no morals.

We have stood like Moshe in front of Pharaoh, finding it hard to express the truth in the face of falsehoods, cruelty and hate.

We have asked ourselves whether we should give up on the world like Noach, run away from our mission like Yonah or hide our Jewishness like Esther.

And yet.

We are confident that the modern Jewish army will uphold their moral conduct and give everything to defend our people and achieve victory.

We know that we can be like Moshe at the end of his life, finding the words and eloquence to articulate our case.

We know that we all have a bit of Queen Esther inside us, that will give us the courage to stand up for our people against the odds, no matter the risk.

But more than any of this, we have also returned to the greatest turning point of Jewish history – its very beginning.

This week, synagogues around the world are reading the words ‘Lech Lecha,’ the first words in our people’s history, spoken by God to Avraham, at the age of 75.

Lech Lecha. A call to return to our true essence. A call to have the courage to be different, and if necessary to stand alone. A call to direct our hearts, even our bodies, to the land of Israel.

And ultimately, if we – the 75-year-old nation state of Avraham’s descendants – heed the call of the first ever command in Jewish history, we know we can achieve its ultimate destiny: to bring blessings to all of humanity.

About the Author
Michael Rainsbury is the Head of Adult Education at the London School of Jewish Studies and a Sacks Scholar. He created the first dedicated English language tours of the Israeli President’s Residence in Jerusalem and leads Jewish heritage tours with JRoots. All articles are written in a personal capacity.
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