Seth D Gordon

Israel’s Sophie’s Choice and a Thanksgiving Prayer

The terror inflicted by Hamas, in addition to the massacre, extended to the hostages, their families, Israel, and the Jewish people.  The families’ anguish lingers, literally day-by-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute.

We pray for the hostages — as we should. Whether by praying we mean divine intervention, whether we mean strengthening each other, whether we are verbalizing the deep human decency in our souls, and whether, otherwise powerless, we just need to do something — we suffer and empathize, as much as we can, with the hostages and their families.

But let us not forget, Israel’s leaders, and we in our own minds, are making a choice; it is not obvious. We who most value human life have been exploited, forced to make a cruel choice, one foisted upon us by evil personified. Hamas deliberately, strategically, planned to take innocent hostages. Israeli leaders must make an unbearable human decision — a larger scale Sophie’s choice.

Choice. By accepting this choice, Israel, at least initially, will be inflicting deeper anguish upon those who are not released. “Why not my son, my daughter, my …?” Why not a grander deal — releasing all in exchange for …

Choice. A Sophie’s Choice. “Who shall live and who shall die?” Israel exchanges the many, at least some of whom are sure to be involved in future plots to kill Jews and others. 150 for 50. This scenario is only marginally hypothetical. Previous releases of terrorists — from Israel and the US — have resulted in murder by those very same terrorists.

Choice. Israel has agreed to pause its military action against Hamas — reported as one day for 10-12 hostages. How many soldiers, beyond the 60+ already killed, will pay with their lives due to the pause? What further acrimony will be justly vented if a direct link is found when additional soldiers die?

Perhaps it is a deal that could not be refused. We save who we can save. But it is a choice. A cruel choice. The Torah teaches “Choose life,” and “live” by its teachings. But this choice?

On this Thanksgiving eve, I will pray — for the hostages and their families, for those not yet released, and that these cruel people receive ultimate justice. Even so, I will lament that justice after the fact still falls far short of preventing the crime / sin in the first place.

Those who remain morally hollow make it virtually inevitable that others will be similarly exploited by evil. Israel, the Jewish people, and the world must find the resolve and the means so that there are no more Sophie’s Choices, and in fact, we will “choose life.”

About the Author
Rabbi Seth D Gordon received his rabbinic s'michah from Rav David Weiss Halivini from the UTJ and has served congregations in Annapolis, Maryland, Bethpage, New York, and St Louis, Missouri. His emphasis is Jewish education. Rabbi Gordon has worked across the board, co-founding a day school in Annapolis, and founded the now defunct African American-Jewish coalition of Anne Arundel County. He also taught in a Jewish Day School on Long Island, NY. He serves on the executive board of the UTJ and is the past Chairman of MORASHAH, its rabbinical organization. He and his wife are blessed with five children and eleven grandchildren; two of their sons, their wives, and five of their grandchildren live in Israel.