William Hamilton
William Hamilton

Sewing Hope

On December 5, 1998 her telephone rang. Lisa picked it up to hear her husband tell her that their son was clinging to life in a Hadassah Hospital intensive care unit. He had been brutally attacked and beaten by a Hamas mob who had been hungry to victimize a lone IDF soldier.

Lisa vividly recalls that something rose up inside her in the ensuing days while she sat at her son’s bedside. It wasn’t rage. It wasn’t a thirst for vengeance. It was, rather, a defiant insistence that this mob had picked the wrong family to mess with. She refused to be a victim. She rebuffed finger-pointing, blaming, or punishing retaliation. Instead, she would immerse her life in going at the heart of riotous religious extremism to impede its progress and disentangle its designs.

Today she is saving the lives of hundreds of Yezidi and Muslim girls and boys near northern Iraq. Many of the young women and men have been monstrously harmed and scarred by ISIS. Since Lisa founded Springs of Hope nine years ago, it has rescued and saved thousands of lives. Here is just one of dozens of initiatives called Sewing Hope. She doesn’t hide her Israeli identity, having originally moved to Jerusalem from the UK in the mid-1970s.

Where does she get this strength? Join us if you can tomorrow at the conclusion of Shabbat morning services to hear for yourself. I have little doubt that her insistence on ‘responsibilities ahead of rights’ derives from one of the portions of Torah we learn this Shabbat.

With Passover’s upcoming arrival, we relearn how each household prepared for the original Pesah in Egypt. As Natan Sharansky has taught, first they had to decide to be free, then they had to publicly act free by displaying evidence of their Pascal offering. Yet even more, their descendants would be enjoined to diligently repeat a Seder enactment again and again and again. “You shall celebrate it in every age, for all time” (Ex. 12:14). The question is not, ‘Are things fated or are we free?’ It is rather, ‘How can we continually become free?’

So many things try to convince us that we are unfree. Our genes. Our surroundings. The ceiling hindering our opportunities. A devastating pandemic. The Torah insists that we weave anew, every springtime, the fabric of our freedom. May this be the season when we become free again. And may we wear our freedom handsomely in order to inspire others to do so in kind.

About the Author
Rabbi William Hamilton has served as rabbi (mara d'atra) of Kehillath Israel in Brookline, MA since 1995.
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