David-Seth Kirshner
Author of Streams of Shattered Consciousness

Streams of Anxious Consciousness III

My mind is racing. It won’t settle down. So many feelings all bubble to the surface. Anger. Pain. Frustration. Revenge. Hatred. Disgust. Sadness. Numbness. Sorrow.

I wrestle with which emotion to honor and is it right of me to feel some of these feelings. Of course it is. But it brushes against the grain.

Even those of us who spend most of our time learning in and about Israel are totally lost. We have no clairvoyance in this moment. Nothing is particularly clearer or more obvious to us now.

It hurts worse than breaking a limb. Worse than a cut that is flesh deep.
I don’t know when the pain will abate.

Many of you reading this are sharing similar emotions and feelings and confusion. Know that those not-OK feelings are OK. And these abnormal responses are very normal.

Some very disparate thoughts rise to the front of my mind. Here are some more in no particular order. I’m sorry for the randomness of these thoughts.

There have mainly been 2 identities of Israel. 1948-1967 and then 1967- 2000.

The first 19 years we were seen and treated like victims. We were felt sorry for. The aftermath of the Shoah/Holocaust still reverberated for many with pangs of guilt and inaction. We were given tissues for our tears to comfort the world’s silence and inaction.

In the aftermath of the Six Day War we were seen as solvent. Strong. God’s physical miracles. We had created an army and we would no longer merit world pity. We would determine our own future from now, forward.

Over the past 55 years two generations have lived symbiotically and simultaneously: one who remembers our weakness and powerlessness and makes no excuse for our rise to power and greatness, and a second that does not know first hand of that history. That has only known of strength, power and might.

That divide crossed generations and manifested itself at Shabbat and Holiday tables when grandparents and grandchildren would share history and backgrounds. They were worlds apart with no appreciation or at least understanding, one for the other. One generation nostalgic and trying to explain what it was having coal delivered and another generation trying to explain how Uber-eats works. There was a huge chasm between these two generations living at the same time.

As my dear and wise friend, Rabbi Aaron Brusso brought forward, October 7, has bridged that divide into a shared victimhood and collective narrative between generations. The elderly are saying, it is happening again. The youth are saying, this is what they were describing to us for years. We feel it now. For the first time, these generations are on the same page.

Second thought:
The degrees of separation here are and will be close.

My kids attend(ed) a Jewish day School. It is loaded with children of Israelis and kids who have Israeli relatives.

They spend vacations, winter and summer in Israel. For kids in America visiting family in Israel is primarily about connecting with grandparents and cousins. That has always been a hallmark of the Israel-Diaspora visits.

Two of the most notable victim populations are the innocent teens and children…..the cousins, and the helpless Savtas and Sabas…..the grandparents.

Kids my kids go to school with and kids your kids go to school with, and know from synagogue and soccer will know and be related to victims. Some will be first degree and others fourth degree relations but the rings of the pain will radiate to America and the Diaspora in little time.

Thought Three:
I have seen a few posts on social media and in print journalism jockeying to blame partisan figures for this tragedy. Some claimed it was Biden. Others Trump. Some Ben Gvir, and Bibi and others the likes of Meretz. Some point at left wing groups like INN and Truah and others say it is the fault of Settlers.

This is NOT the time for such blame games.

If anyone thinks Hamas did this now for any other reason than Jew hatred, you are naive and wrong.

This attack was well orchestrated. It was brazen and far from haphazard and assembled over a long time. Like 9/11 It surely was being devised over multiple Knessets and US presidents. No one is to blame.

To engage in partisan divide and pushing shame on one side versus the other or one organization against another, is petty and useless. I assure you, the barbaric terrorists did not care which political affiliation one voted for or which organizational group another subscribed towards when they shot, raped and abducted people.

Partisanship divides. This is not the time for those fruitless games of blame and finger pointing. Its satisfaction is short lived, if at all and it takes our focus off the wrong targets.

Last painful thought.
My daughter, who spent last year in Israel and basically every summer since she was 5 years young, has friends that are not accounted for. It is not known if they are alive and hiding, hospitalized, dead or held captive.

She said to me and my wife, “I know they are dead.”

I replied, “Honey. You have to have hope and believe.”

She said, “I can’t have hope. It hurts too much when that hope is destroyed.”

Those comments leveled me.

On one hand, she is right. On the other hand, the watchwords of Israel are The Hope. It declares in song, we can never abandon our hope. But we also can’t be naive and foolish.

That is the paradox of this moment for her, for me and for all of us.

I apologize for these streams of anxious consciousness. For me, expressing them is mildly cathartic.

Keep praying and for now, let’s not abandon our hope.

About the Author
David-Seth Kirshner is the senior rabbi of Temple Emanu-El, a Conservative synagogue in Closter, New Jersey. He is the past President of the NY Board of Rabbis and the NJ Board of Rabbis and is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Hartman Institute and serves on the Executive Committee of the JFNA. Rabbi Kirshner was appointed to the New Jersey/Israel Commission by Governors Christie and Murphy. Rabbi Kirshner is a National Council member of AIPAC and an adjunct faculty member at the Academy for Jewish Religion, (AJR). He is the author of Streams of Shattered Consciousness, featured in The NY Times Book Review (Feb '24) and has over 11,000 copies in circulation in its first three months since publication. He has spoken on his book and topics connected to Judaism and Zionism across the world.
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