Tonight, I read my son the story of Noach. At the end, I pointed to the rainbow on his bedroom wall and said, “And whenever you see the rainbow, you know it’s a special bracha”.
But rainbows are not one’s typical bracha. They are brachot that only emerge when there is a storm. They are light that emerges out of darkness.
Like most Israelis, these past few days, I have felt like Noah in the ark, clinging desperately to my family as the waves rock around me. My shelter does not seem secure; it feels highly vulnerable to the waters around it, permeable to the terrorists who may wish to come after me or my family. And it is certainly inundated by the communal grief that increases with each death notice that pours in, and each day that goes by where our women, men, and children remain captives.
But, as we approach the Parshah of Noach, I have also been thinking a lot about rainbows.
I was always taught that rainbows appear after a storm. But actually, during heavy storms, you can often see little rainbows all around you if you look hard enough. As my phone, like that of so many Israelis, is inundated with messages of: neighbors collecting baked goods or clothes for soldiers or displaced people from southern/northern Israel, neighbors giving each other rides to blood donation centers, tons of fundraisers for various causes related to this crisis, different mitzvah opportunities related to this crisis, offers to host people displaced by the violence – I cannot help but feel that I am seeing rainbows in this storm -and that rainbow is the kindness of the Israeli people, and the way we are coming together to support each other during this tragedy. Like the rainbow that has many colors, this giving comes in many hues and varieties.
I am also overwhelmed by the support of the Diaspora Jewish community, whether it is donations, volunteering, or providing emotional support for friends and family in Israel.
I feel in some ways more hopeful about Israeli society than ever: If we can carry this love and kindness forward, past the moment of crisis, we can create a truly beautiful society that will be a light unto the nations, a society of peace and justice, a society that is holy in its respect for the the holy spark of Godliness we see in each other.
But I also know that the events of the past week have been traumatizing for many of us. When Noach emerges from the boat, one of his first acts is to build a vineyard and become inebriated. He drinks to escape his trauma and that desire for escape is a natural human instinct.
But I think that it also contains a lesson: As humans, we cannot escape the trauma; we have no choice but to process it, to sit with our emotions and grieve for what was lost.
This must include taking care of our own emotional and mental well-being at this moment, to the best of our abilities given the situation. Many hotlines are springing up, and many therapists in Israel and around the world are offering free sessions to Israelis in light of the situation. I urge us all to take advantage of these services and/or to do things that we feel help us to maintain emotional well-being -journaling, yoga, healthy eating, prayer -whatever it may be.
I know this is easier said than done. I count myself as one of the most blessed people in Israel right now: I have my children and husband at home with me and I have a shelter room at home; I do not live in an area that is under constant rocket fire.
But like most Israelis, I am struggling to concentrate. I am constantly flooded with names and images of those missing or dead; at night, I lock the doors and pray to God that nobody is coming to kidnap my family. (I also tell myself that the mountain of toys in the living room can, in a worst case scenario, double as a terrorist booby trap.)
And yet: I am inspired by the many rainbows I see all around me, so many people giving in so many ways, including those risking their lives to protect me, my family, and the rest of Israeli society.
As we think about different ways we can carry forward the positive momentum for chessed and achdut (kindness and unity) that was created by one of the most harrowing experiences of the Jewish people since the Holocaust, we must also think, individually and collectively, of the different ways that we will process this trauma, and how we will preserve its memory.