Yeshivat Orot Shaul in southern Tel Aviv has the tradition of spending the day of Simchat Torah on the streets of the city dancing and rejoicing with the colorful tapestry of Jewish life that can be found there. This dancing continues into the night, with spirited second hakafot. Orot Shaul is an open minded and warm place led by thoughtful and nuanced Torah scholars, and the spirit is one of spreading the beauty and warmth of Torah, with no sense of coercion or force.
Only a few weeks earlier, Tel Aviv was electrified around public religious ritual in the streets during Yom Kippur. The leadership of the Yeshiva, including Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Tamir Granot, decided to enhance the Simchat Torah tradition for this year with white t-shirts that would be worn by the young men with their message and goal. Printed on the back it said: הריני מקבל על עצמי לאהוב! – I wholeheartedly accept upon myself to love! This would help build bridges of affection and warmth as they shared their love of Torah with the broader community.
But, this year, it was not meant to be.
Interestingly, the tradition of second hakafot, an additional opportunity to celebrate the Torah after the holiday has already ended, originated in this very neighborhood. Back in 1942, the Jews of the Florentine community came out into the streets. Recognizing that now it was Simchat Torah for the Jews of the diaspora, the Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, Rabbi Yedidya Frenkel, announced that they would dedicate this night to celebrate the Torah on behalf of their brothers in Europe, currently suffering under Nazi rule and unable to rejoice for themselves. This year our brothers in the diaspora celebrated for us.
When chag ended, my son who is currently a student in the Yeshiva, raced back to our home. When he arrived, as he shared his experiences from that day, he showed us his shirt and described the unfulfilled plans of the Yeshiva. Reeling as the news of that night came in, we were inspired by this prayer for love and connection that felt like it had already been buried in the barely distant past.
Tragically, eight days later, Rav Tamir’s son, Amitai Zvi z”l, was killed by a Hezbollah missile on the border with Lebanon while serving as an officer in the tank corps.
In his eulogy for his son, Rav Tamir shared this fervent prayer for love and unity. As his student, I felt compelled to disseminate this message to a broader, English-speaking audience.
These words serve as a reminder that the mobilized, unified, and loving connections that we have seen in our nation over these last weeks is who we truly are and what we need to be. It is the only national response to our enemies and it is vital to our future. Now we must commit to it.
This translation has been reviewed by the staff at the Yeshiva prior to publication. May these words bring honor to the Granot family and to the memory of Amitai z”l.
“I want to share one last thought from my bleeding heart. In the days just before the great massacre of Simchat Torah (Oct. 7, 2023), I was also engaged in trying to change the current reality, to make peace among the Jewish people. To create a situation that on Simchat Torah, all of Israel; from factions on the left, Jews from across the spectrum, members of the protest movement, and others – that we could all dance together during the second hakafot after Simchat Torah. This was my dream.
I did not succeed – WE did not succeed. And in place of this, Hashem took the hakafot from us. In place of dancing together, rejoicing together, and building together, the Jewish people are now unified in funerals and war.
My brothers, those from near and far – listen to me! To all who can transmit this message – this is far from over. It cannot be that the Jewish people only stand together in war. Each of us must accept upon ourselves a willingness to love our fellow Jews. I beg each of you to take this upon yourself, each one should share this with a friend, each of you should pass this to the entirety of the Jewish people so that we don’t go back to where we were before. So that we don’t go back to the conflict, to the fighting, to the way of “me and only me.”
So that we don’t go back to the shards and the brokenness.
This division weakened me, it weakens all of us – the entire Jewish People. It gave a space to our rivals; they saw us, and they identified it. This is well known and was already acknowledged and written about in many places. This is not novel. When we are divided, we are weak.
We must love, respect, and honor each other. When we believe in one another, we decide together that we will make a new bond. This will no longer be the “covenant of fate” of war and suffering, but rather a “covenant of destiny;” of vision and redemption. Only then will there be repair from this catastrophe. We will stand together and strengthen each other, and our light will overcome and be victorious over the darkness. Without a doubt. Without a doubt!
“We have come to drive away the darkness, and in our hands are light and fire”. Now is the time for the fire of war, but the time will yet come for the light of the nation of Israel to drive away the darkness of our enemies and the darkness of evil. Then, we will illuminate the world with a great light.
I ask each of us to loudly proclaim: ״הרי אני מקבל על עצמי מצוות עשה של ואהבת לרעך כמוך״
“I wholeheartedly commit to the commandment to love my neighbor as myself.”
We must cease to exist in factions, to have divisions. We must see goodness in each other. We must see our friends’ virtues and not their shortcomings; we must make a commitment to be unified, to be one. Then, and only then, we will be strong, and no one will be able to overcome us – I assure you.
Yes… I have lost my personal war.
And, I declare, Zion will find comfort in the unity of the Jewish people, and each man and his neighbor will be comforted by the love of the Jewish nation.
Hashem gives and Hashem takes away, the name of Hashem should be blessed.
 Lau, Yisrael Meir. Out of the Depths; pg. 212-213
 My son studies under Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Tamir Granot in Yeshivat Orot Shaul and I attend his weekly classes at the Stella K. Abraham Beit Midrash at Migdal Oz. Affectionately known by his students as Rav Tamir, he is a world class Torah Scholar, uniquely gifted at combining sophisticated biblical and Talmudic concepts with deep mystical and Chasidic teachings that anchor us in our modern world. He has authored many articles and books on Tanach and Jewish thought about the Holocaust.
 This is a reference to the post Holocaust essay of Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik entitled: “Kol Dodi Dofek” – “Fate and Destiny.”
 These are the words of a classic Israeli Hannukah song describing the victory of the Maccabean over the Greeks and the return of the light of the menorah to the darkness of the desecrated Temple.