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As history happens in Ukraine, let’s write ourselves into the Book of Right

What will we tell our children when they look back at this time, see a bloody war, a ruthless tyrant, talk of nuclear warfare, and ask: Did you stand up to it all?
Ukrainian soldiers fire in the recently retaken Kupiansk in the Kharkiv region, Ukraine, Friday, Sept. 23, 2022. Russian and Ukrainian forces exchanged missile and artillery barrages on Thursday as both sides refused to concede ground despite recent military setbacks for Moscow and the toll on the invaded country after seven months of war. (AP Photo/Kostiantyn Liberov)
Ukrainian soldiers fire in the recently retaken Kupiansk in the Kharkiv region, Ukraine, September 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Kostiantyn Liberov)

I stand in my kitchen, peeling carrots, browning meat.

At the borders of Russia, young men are fleeing.

In Ukraine, people die.

Should I add more salt? Did I use enough pepper?

Questions, questions, so many questions.

In the conquered territories of Ukraine, men with guns and referendum forms walk from house to house.

I puree the sweet potatoes, reshaping them into a softer substance.

In Eastern Europe, Putin’s machinations are reshaping history by force.

One day, when the leaders of the free world grow tired of this war, will they suddenly consider this referendum legitimate? Will they belatedly allow it to shape their policies, too?

Questions, questions, so many questions.

I stand in my kitchen and question and stir.

Russia threatens to use nuclear weapons.

I cut the pomegranate open, picking out its seeds.

In Hebrew, the word for “nuclear” is the same as “seed” – gar’in, which also stands for core.

At the core of this moment lies a question: What’s next?

I chop and fry and boil and wonder.

What will come next, in this new Hebrew year?

The Books of Life and Death lie open above us. God sits in judgment, and the world holds its breath.

But the book that concerns me right now lies in our hands. It is the book of our history, of our actions, our all.

One day, our children will look back at this moment in time. They will see a bloody war, a ruthless tyrant, talk of nuclear warfare.

And they will ask — what did you, Mother and Father, do in that moment? What did Israel do? Where did we stand?

They will look at our actions, at our words, at our behavior.

At the ways in which we write ourselves, right now, into the annals of this time.

When they do, what will they see? What will they encounter? People busy in their private cares, their private kitchens… or something bigger, something more?

Our grandparents fought to found a Jewish state. Our parents fought to build it up and make it strong.

It is our turn, now, to shape our — and our state’s — future. It is up to us to determine the place that it will take in world affairs.

As the free world stands behind Ukraine in a war for its meaning and future, what do we stand for? What guides our actions?

I believe in an Israel that stands for courage in the face of mortal threats, and for the right of democratic nation-states to defend their sovereignty. Ukraine is fighting the same battle right now. Dare we stand with it, as a comrade, in support?

I believe in an Israel that embodies the best of what Judaism has to offer, from Abraham’s courage to be different, to his wide-open tent. Standing for Ukraine right now requires both our courage and our caring. Dare we rise to the challenge, like Abraham’s true heirs?

I believe in an Israel that’s strong enough to speak its truth unflinchingly. Dare we, though? Speak up and speak truth?

I believe in an Israel that stands for more than one people’s survival. Dare we stand up for what is so patently right?

I stand in my kitchen, arranging the foods that we will use to wish ourselves good outcomes for the year before us. Apples and honey, for a good and sweet year. Pomegranate seeds, to symbolizes the plenty of our hoped-for merits.

Our merits, though — they depend on our actions, not our prayers or hopes.

Let us dare stand for justice. Let us care and make noise until our leaders speak up. Let us earn our rightful place in history — the place that represents our true potential and values as both Jews and Israelis. Let us write ourselves into the Book of History, by doing right.

About the Author
Rachel is a Jerusalem-born writer and speaker who's in love with her city's vibrant human scene. She writes about Judaism, parenting and life in Israel for the Times of Israel and Kveller, and explores storytelling in the bible as a teacher and on 929.
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