Yael Leibowitz

Please, look now

The day You hid Your face from us, God, we found ourselves. Your children ran into fire, not away from it
Family of Israeli solider Sergeant Yosef Dassa mourn during his funeral in Kiryat Ata, May 12, 2024 (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Family of Israeli solider Sergeant Yosef Dassa mourn during his funeral in Kiryat Ata, May 12, 2024 (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Did You mean for it to be like this, God?

This big? This bad? This all-consuming?

When You moved aside, and let them loose, did You know what they would do? To the dancers? To the babies?

Did You know they would tie them to trees? That they would cut her hamstrings so she couldn’t run? Did You know her mother would see the video?

You warned us, God, that You would turn away and hide Your face. But did You know that when you did, the fence would be so easily breached?

Did You know there would be that line of cars?

What about the motorcycles? The pickup trucks?

Did You know they would laugh? As they lit window curtains on fire and roasted Your children alive?

Not the paschal lamb, God, Your children!

Left to the diabolical whims of the Angel of Death.

Did You know they would drag them through the streets of Gaza? That they would beat them along the way? Did You know if they were dead before the lynching began? Their parents need to know. They also don’t want to know. But they do.

Did You know, God Almighty, what they would do to them in the tunnels?

And our boys, God. Their smiles. Their letters. Did You know how many of those letters we would have to read? How badly we don’t want to? They were defending the land You promised them. Did You know how carefully they would fight? Because they were taught that all humans are created in Your image. That ethos shapes our military. But it also leads to disastrous accidents. Irreversible ones. It leads to families that will never be whole again. And to soldiers reliving their friends’ deaths at every waking moment. Did You know about the walking dead, God? They are everywhere.

God, we need to believe that You knew. And we also need to believe that You did not. Because if we can’t hold on to that paradox, then we lose You, too, and that’s a loss we cannot handle.

So, if You were hiding your face on that black shabbat, then please God, know this:

Know that Your children ran into fire, not away from it. That they streamed south as soon as they heard, thinking only of those who needed them. Know that the carnage they saw simultaneously broke and fueled them. And know, God, that when they reached their terrified, barricaded brothers and sisters, they identified themselves with cries of Shema Yisrael.

If You were hiding Your face, God, know that from the migunit, he threw back every grenade he could. And that the girls no one had listened to jumped into tanks and saved kibbutzim. Know that barefoot neighbors hid other people’s toddlers, and that a grandfather sat alone in an armchair so the beasts would think there was no one else left to kill.

The day You hid Your face from us, God, we found ourselves.

And You promised us, just like You promised to hide your face when we don’t earn Your countenance, that You would turn towards us, and shine upon us, when we do.

Do You still want to hide Your face, then? From all of this? From the best of what we are? From the giving, and the caring, and the unconditional devotion? Do You want to hide Your face from the heroes? From those who have lost limbs but not their love for this country? From those who awake in the middle of the night agonizing about our hostages? Who can’t fall back asleep because their hearts won’t allow it? Do You want to hide Your face from those who have been working ceaselessly, since the beginning, to make sure it doesn’t all fall apart? Or from the new bride who sends her beloved into the unknown? She is hoping, desperately, that he will make this world safe for the new life growing in her belly, and also, that he will come back into her arms. Will You hide Your face from her, God? Or from the bereaved mother who inspires an entire nation with her resolve and her moral clarity?

What about the fathers who have seen their own wars, and know what it does to the soul, but send their sons anyway, in the name of the eternity of the Jewish people? Will You hide Your face from that? If You do, God, You won’t see the tens of thousands who cry at the funerals of our fallen, and You won’t see how that unity uplifts. You will miss the gestures of strangers that repair shattered hearts. And You won’t know that despite the pain and anger, compassion is the most powerful emotion coursing through our veins.

We are not the same people we were on the 6th. We never will be.

We also aren’t the same as we were before Iran attacked.

The night we watched, from our roofs and windows, as a miracle of biblical proportions transpired before our eyes. That night, God, we knew your Omnipotence. We felt it in our bones as they rattled with each thunderous boom. As good vs. evil streaked across the sky that night, God, we knew. And we knew again when they brought them home. All four of them, alive. Against unthinkable odds. God’s warriors brought them back to us. Lifeguards celebrated. They are home.

But there are still so many there. And they are hurting in ways our imaginations cannot conjure. So many of your children, God, are waiting. And so many more are confused. Because this is not how it was supposed to be.

So, we beg of you, God, do more miracles. Because You can. And because we are not who we were last Yom Kippur. It has been nine months and we have been born anew. And now, we are drawing from our sorrow, our euphoria, our fatigue, and our fear of what might be next, and beseeching You, look at us now.

Please, God, look now.

Shine your face upon us.

About the Author
Yael Leibowitz has her Master’s degree in Judaic Studies from Columbia University. Prior to making aliyah, Yael taught Tanakh at the Upper School of Ramaz, and then went on to join the Judaic Studies faculty at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women. She has taught Continuing Education courses at Drisha Institute for Jewish Education and served as Resident Scholar at the Jewish Center of Manhattan. She is currently teaching at Matan Women’s Institute for Torah Studies, and is a frequent lecturer in North America and the United Kingdom.
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