“Am Yisrael Chai” is a powerful anthem that resonates with the heart and soul of the Jewish people. In a world filled with divisions, differing viewpoints, and conflicting morals, it is crucial to focus on what truly matters in life. We must recognize that nobody is perfect, and even in recent years, Israel has grappled with internal divisions and struggles, including the battle between Judaism and democracy, along with issues of hatred and spitefulness.
Am Yisrael Chai with solders in 1973 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFjLQkNp4as
However, amid these challenges, we have come to realize that we have even greater concerns to address. In times of simchas and sorrow we come together to sing the timeless words of “Am Yisrael Chai, Od Avinu Chai” a song with deep significance. These words, set to a tune composed by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, were originally meant as a rallying cry for the return of Russian Jews. Over time, it has evolved into a rallying anthem for the Jewish people in Israel.
Let us express gratitude, first and foremost, to Reb Shlomo for his remarkable contribution to keeping Judaism alive, especially in the aftermath of the Holocaust. It’s worth noting that he faced criticism for allegations of sexual harassment (stretching the boundaries), and while we can’t disregard these claims, we must remember that everyone makes mistakes. Nobody is perfect or righteous. This stain on his reputation should not overshadow the immense impact he had on countless people, including many women who were and are his ardent supporters. His stories, songs, and influence have left an indelible mark on Jewish and Israeli society.
Reb Shlomo’s impact on prayer services, weddings, and various Jewish rituals is immeasurable. His tunes and melodies have become an integral part of these sacred moments. He left a legacy that extends to the Kabbalat Shabbat service, Hallel service, and beyond. His influence can be heard in the joyful songs and dances at weddings. His music brings people together in celebration and worship.
One of Rav Shlomo’s famous sayings is that we have only one heart, and therefore, we must use it for love rather than hate. This message forms the core of his teachings. One of his many songs encourages unity among brothers (and sisters). He tirelessly worked to create universal love among Jews and with nations worldwide. His outreach extended to Poland and Germany, spreading love, understanding, and peace.
Yet, his love for Israel, God, and the Torah was undeniable. He emphasized the importance of Jewish tradition and the role of joy in Judaism. His teachings have revived interest in figures like Rav Kook and Rabbi Nachman, and other Chassidic masters who contributed to the spiritual depth of Judaism.
Within his strong particularism lay a message of support for Israel and a definition of the world’s relationship with the Jewish people. After the 1973 war, he delivered a powerful message, emphasizing the enduring strength of the Jewish people. This message, a testament to his unwavering support for Israel, is a reminder of the unity that should characterize the Jewish community.
As we struggle for clarity and meaning in this war and world, Reb Shlomo messages and music has the of uplifting our spirit and bring much-needed clarification of what is right and wrong.
“For 2,000 years, the world thinks the Jews are there to be slaughtered. And I mean, you and I know the truth. It’s not a question of the Palestinians, it’s not a question of… It’s simply a question of… The question is killing Jews or not. But that’s all there is to it. And the time has come that we Jews are not there to be killed. And it’s heartbreaking, you know, that in a so-called civilized world, the world still is so barbaric. Absolutely barbaric. You see, if you were to ask me, if you were to ask me who is right in this war, you know, I think you’re very subjectively speaking. Imagine I’m falling down from Mars, coming down. I would interview both sides. I would ask the Egyptians, what do you want to do? All the Arabs. I’ll say, do you want to kill the Jews? I’d ask the Jews what do you want to do? Every soldier will say, I want peace. And I’ll tell you something very strong, you know. Last week, I went to San Francisco, and I played at a big rally for Israel, where thousands of Jewish students, non-Jewish students, Japanese students, all kinds, those who have a little bit of soul. And on the other side, the Arabs, you know, whenever the Jews made it to the rally, they have to come there also. So we had just a flag, a Israeli flag, and we were just… And I was singing and talking to the people and saying, really, all we want is peace in the world, you know. Not only peace for us, but peace for the whole world. And the Arabs had a big flag, and it said, death to the Jews, death to Zionism, death to Israel. There’s a long list who they want to kill. And, you know, it was just… I really felt so deep the difference that we don’t want to kill anybody. Thank you.”
This video is an important message as elaborates on two truths;
- Eternal Jew Hatred and their desire to kill us.
- Our Desire for Peace
And Reb Shlomo was clear here. We need to recognise this Hate while making it clear the land of Israel is ours. He says that the Arabs have so much land, yet they want it all, our little piece of land.
Here is Reb Shlomo in his own words.
“How would the world look like in 100 years from now, if us Yidden, after Auschwitz, after Majdanek, we built a little land, and then the world has the chutzpah to take half of it away again? What a chutzpah! What a chutzpah! What a chutzpah! Outrageous! Our cousins have millions of miles, empty, nothing. We have a little land, we built it, with tears, with blood, with prayers. What is taking away from us? What are you going to do with it? And since my concert is over, I can say what I want to. I want you to know, friends, I was one of the first people who walked into the old city. Sixty-seven. And there was so much love in the air, if the politicians wouldn’t have mingled in, we could have mumush made peace on that very day. But I want you to know, I talked to, I kissed every Arab, every boy, every girl I was thinking about. One little Arab cousin ran after me and said, you forgot to kiss one of my babies. Anyway, I see a little girl of sixteen standing in a corner like, I asked her, how do you feel? Let me ask you, talk to me the truth. Are you glad Israel took over the old city, or are you sad? She looked around. She said, you know something? Israel saved my life. Because my father sold me to an old man of eighty, four hundred dollars. Do you know what’s going on in the world, friends? Do you know what’s really going on? We don’t need to learn civilization from the rest of the world.”
“There’s still a little bit of the smoke of Auschwitz sometimes. Especially in the Holy Land, friends. There are some people who would like to blow the gas of Auschwitz towards the Holy Land. Don’t kid yourself. We have to be strong, strong in our feet. Friends, I want you to yell, Am Yisrael Chai. Israel is living. The land is living. The land is our land. Jerusalem is our city. I want you to know, beautiful friends, that I’m not talking about political things I’m talking about. The Jews should know where it’s at. I want you to know when God gave the land to Abraham, when God says to Abraham, walk around in the land, this is the land I’m giving you. It is our land. It is our land. Hashem, it is our land. Do you know every inch of the land is full of blood of our holy soldiers. They gave their lives and we should spit at them and just say, oh, I’ll trade it in for a few million rubles. Brother Clinton will give us, no, 100% not. Friends, I want us to stand on our feet and yell, Am Yisrael Chai. Israel is living forever. The land is ours forever. It is the land of our children, of our grandchildren. And nobody can take it away from us. And nobody can take it away from us. And nobody can take it away from us.”
As we commemorate the 29th yahrzeit of Rav Shlomo Carlebach, Due to the ongoing war and Kidnappings, there may be changes in the way we gather and celebrate his legacy this year. In these times, it’s essential to set aside our differences, acknowledging both our flaws, as well as those of our country. Let us come together and sing “Am Yisrael Chai” as a powerful reminder of the enduring spirit of the Jewish people.
In closing, I want to express gratitude for, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, who was a source of inspiration for countless individuals and continues to be through his music and messages of a meaningful Judaism and love.
All images / photos sourced from Social media – Facebook / Instagram