In the book of Shmot (Exodus, 1, 12) as the Torah recalls the story of the Jews living under Egyptian slavery it’s written “But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew.”
If there is one phrase that perhaps best personifies the Jewish experience through the generations, it is perhaps this one. We have faced nearly every threat that could be imagined and while we have been dealt tremendous losses, and sadly continue to experience them, we have never allowed our affliction to halt our growth- neither our physical nor spiritual growth.
I thought of this lesson as I looked on at the brit milah of my grandson that took place this week in the Beit Knesset Dossa in Lod. Just over two weeks ago, hate-filled terrorists tried to burn the shul down amidst the ongoing tensions in the city. While our enemies have had many different faces over the years and hid behind all sorts of different agendas, the desire to destroy Jews and our symbols has been a constant theme following us across the world and through the generations.
Even while the brit was taking place, I was informed that a Beit Knesset in Los Angeles, the Young Israel of Century City, has been the victim of an attack, all part of a growing swell of anti-Semitism sweeping across the Diaspora. This is a shul that I have attended and I am blessed to call the community’s rabbi a trusted friend.
These two acts, taking place on two different sides of the world are sadly part of the same theme – and that very same narrative which has inspired Jew-hatred throughout our history; anti-Semites are not motivated by any desire other than to see Jews destroyed from their midst.
But as challenging as these events might be, I have always chosen to reflect back on that pasuk in Shmot. As much as our enemies might try to afflict us, we will always grow. We certainly know that this growth will too often come at a cost. Throughout the ages, millions of Jews have died sanctifying the name of God. But no Jew’s death should ever be in vain. It is always with the understanding that afflictions we are forced to experience will enable us to multiply and grow.
The Beit Knesset in Lod with very heavy damage, reflective of painful scenes from Nazi Europe that we thought would never be replicated in a land of our own, has been completely renovated. As soon as was safely possible, teams of volunteers came into the shul and rebuilt and repainted all the affected areas so that today few physical traces remain of the devastation that occurred just weeks ago.
I am fully confident that the damage that was incurred on the Young Israel will be fixed just as quickly.
Because that is the message that we need to take from our traditions when we face enemies. While we mourn the losses and know that we need to take the necessary precautions to defend ourselves, we will not be afraid and we will not cower to hatred and darkness.
Rather, we will ensure that just like our forefathers in Egypt, we will never be defeated and our affliction will only lead us to multiply, to grow and to become a stronger and prouder people.