It’s been over a month since that fateful morning of Simchat Torah, a day that started like any other but ended in shock and terror. Little did we know back then what was really going on at the time. In the face of uncertainty and fear, our community has been put to the test. The question of security looms large. Do we lock the mamad, the security door, and if so, how? What do we need to stock? Our children can’t sleep at night; words like “kidnapped” and “hostages” float around our homes, casting a shadow over our daily lives.
In the digital age, it’s hard not to read the news. The commandment is “זכר את אשר עשה לךעמלק” – how much are we supposed to know? And don’t even get me started on the international news.
During Bnei Yisrael’s first war – against Amalek – Moshe Rabbeinu instructed Yehoshua to choose a select group of people for the physical battle – בחר לנו אנשים. Moshe himself ascended the hilltop so he could be seen from the battlefield. His hands needed to be raised the whole time – ויהי ידיו אמונה – ויהי משה ידיו באמונה פרושות השמים, בתפילה נאמנת ונכונה. The rest of the Bnei Yisrael, as the Ramban explains, were following Moshe’s lead in prayer. If at any time Moshe’s hands went down, the soldiers in battle would start to loose. Aharon and Chur (Miriam’s son) stood beside Moshe to help him keep his hands up.
Apparently, there are 3 parts necessary for Bnei Yisrael to win a war: Soldiers, the leaders and the rest of Bnei Yisrael. There needed to be non-stop prayer and Torah study so that the soldiers battling Amalek in combat would win.
Was it necessary for the prayer group to specifically pray for the soldiers? Did the Soldiers need to know and believe that they are being prayed for and that it is the prayer that is keeping them going? I don’t know, though it seems likely. The hands of Moshe needed to be seen by both the soldiers and the people praying, which seem to tell us that everyone had to know what the other group was doing. Seems like a group effort with Moshe guiding their efforts towards the heavens: the physical front, the spiritual front and the leaders guiding them.
How are we responding and standing together in the face of adversity? To which of the above group are you being part of?
Are you a soldier, or someone caring for the physical well-being of the country? Are you a doctor, healing the injured? Thousands of volunteers, nay, angels have stepped up and shown us what love, dedication and care means. From trucks carrying portable washing machines, tanks adorned with children’s drawings, rabbis barbecuing for soldiers, and famous entertainers lifting spirits with their music. Have you helped the farms that have been left desolate? Are you part of this group?
Are you learning Torah, praying for the hostages, for the sick, for the mourning? The regular prayer that the Jewish people were doing was apparently not enough to protect Yehoshua and to ensure his victory. Moshe had to raise his hands in prayer to inspire more Tefilot. What have you done extra? Are you saying Avinu Malkeinu (as some have proposed)? Did you join a Tehillim group? Have you started keeping Shabbos (better) or a different Mitzvah or have you joined those incredible 24h Kollels that know that they are the force which helps our soldiers win? Maybe you made tzitzis or arranged tefillin for those that want and need? Are you part of the amazing Cheder in Jerusalem that made name-tags for their boys to wear – each boy spiritually responsible for a specific soldier? Are you actively beseeching God to help us through this difficult time? Non-stop learning, non-stop Torah.
Or perhaps, you are in a place where you can be a leader, like Moshe, Aharon or Chur. Are you a head of a community that you can inspire? Are you able to rally people to do more, be better, kinder? Can you step up and be a leader?
If you are not in one these groups, then you are not being part of Bnei Yisrael. It is a simple as that.
Reflecting on these actions, one can’t help but wonder: if we had lived during the Holocaust, what would we have done? The answer stares us in the face. Whatever we are doing now, whatever action we are taking, is precisely what we could and should have done then. Each of us lives within our circle of influence, and within that sphere, we all have the power to make a difference.
In this moment of crisis, can we count on you to stand together, to pray together, and to act together? Our community’s strength lies in our unity, our resilience, and our unwavering faith in Avinu Malkeinu. Let us join hands and hearts, affirming that, yes, we can be counted on to make a difference. Together, we are stronger. Together, we will overcome.