It’s Shabbat Morning, the day of rest, and I am expected to lead the congregation in morning prayers. I have no rest however, for even if I’m 90 miles away, I’m fighting a war that no one cares to ask about the origin of. This is not a war of armies, nor of politicians on stages nor of activists in D.C. This is a war between me and my peers and I am armed with nothing but my identity, my friends and my belief.
The enemy is not my enemy, for how can one be your enemy when they don’t even know what they truly represent? Nevertheless, I stand and they stand, I fight and they fight, are we so different? Can we not just get along? My parents say it is foolish to continue the fight, that I should keep my head down and graduate. For the true enemy is older than I or even my grandparents. The true enemy is very old and very clever, evolving with the times and becoming weaker and stronger all at the same time. Up until college it even had me fooled. Yes, the Holocaust was horrible but that was in the past, no one could possibly still harbor those beliefs… right?
And so, as I close my eyes and begin to sing, I believe I am safe, convinced that the dragon was slain. I begin to sing of His greatness, how he created the world, how he has delivered us from trial after trial and will soon return us to our homeland. Suddenly, I am transported, I’m in Charlottesville, no Pittsburgh, no San Diego, no Brooklyn, no, I’m just a couple blocks away in Beverly Hills. I witness atrocity after atrocity happening to my brother and sister and I cannot even call out. I cannot do a thing but watch as people are stabbed and shot, as places of worship defaced and burned, as the scrolls I live my life by are ruined beyond repair.
This is the world of that great and powerful One who will deliver us? Ima, Aba how can I not fight? How can I not call out and muster all of my strength to fight this ancient enemy that rears its head once again? And so, I join the fight, not even knowing how but knowing I have to do something. I have always been taught to love everyone equally but how do you love someone who has sworn to destroy you and everything you stand for? And yet I continue to sing.
I sing of our millennia of suffering and of our yearning to return to where we belong. I sing of how great our home is and how beautiful. I am transported again, this time just 90 miles away to my own campus. People are yelling in praise of a movement that nearly killed me. They praise those trying to destroy my beautiful home and condemn those who try to protect it to the worst of fates. And I realize my enemy has evolved yet again but this enemy made one mistake, it came to me and now it’s personal. I hear its whispers through many mouths of how I don’t belong because of the kippah I wear on my head and the flag I have on my wall. Now, it’s not just for my ancestors, not just for my friends, and not just for my relatives, I fight for me.
I prepare for the coming fight and I am ready to give everything to vanquish this enemy for it is ready to do the same. I will defend my people, I will defend my land, but most importantly I will defend myself. I am nearing the end of my song; a solitary tear rolls down my cheek and my voice begins to falter but no one seems to notice. I sing the last few notes, praying, wishing, hoping against hope that when I finally open my eyes the enemy will be vanquished and, after over 2000 years, I can finally rest.