Growing up in Crown Heights was a mostly happy affair. Born in 1985 it was the height of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s leadership and my home was a way station for Yeshiva students who lit up our Shabbos table. It was a happy childhood but at times a sadness permeated and I wasn’t sure what it was for a long time. I went to a Yeshiva where the education was pure and at times poor. My parents allowed us to read and at a young age I was moved by the works of Elie Wiesel, Primo Levi and their acolytes and a bevy of historical documentation of how everyday Germans systematically murdered my people. The Eintzgruppen, Mengele and the cold tracks to Auschwitz seared in my soul and the slow realization that my mothers entire extended family was swallowed into that abyss.
On Simchas Torah it became clear that something horrific was happening. A picture of two stunning redheads babies and their mother was shown to me. Her face contorted not in fear for herself – it was a face of fear of not being able to protect her precious children. It was a fear I’ve seen before only in black and white. My heart rate quickened, mouth dry and a feeling of profound eternal sadness rattled through my heart and mind. My children are redheads. I knew the news would worsen. I knew that what came next would be bigger than anything I’d seen in my lifetime. I knew I was going to Israel.
Many are grappling with the horrors we saw. The beheadings, families burned alive and defilement of our sacred dead. We are struggling because we have no corollary. We have never seen this. The wars of the past fought mostly by Arabs of secular Arab governments with little religious fervor. Hamas, Hezbollah are different. They hate Jews – they hate Jews in a way that would make Nazi’s blush. They are the Amalek we read about in the Torah. True evil fed by the angel of death. Yom Tov over, I scheduled a flight and let friends and family know. We collected some high grade items requested by family drafted into the swelling Israeli Army and I departed. On landing I sped north. The Galilee’s verdant green hills teasing our ancient past. The soldiers, incredulous and thankful for my presence. A sudden siren and down we went into an airless bunker for 2 hours.
Over here I would like to relay that this collection of words had a different ending that became less relevant as I waited to finish this. The incredible sadness and pain rising to my throat when I think of those dead and even more for those alive – still omnipresent. The blood lust ebbing like a good Jew. What is this I have asked myself, what is all this, how can this be. I am sitting in a cafe in a sunlit Jerusalem with my time here at an end and a father stands holding his crying baby. Gently, tenderly and lovingly he tries to console her. A simple act. For so many the loss is compounded by the feeling of helplessness or more accurately that other than giving a donation or doing a mitzvah this is a fight they are not fighting. Hamas and all of its supporters and we know who they are, honour death and proudly offer their children to that unholy angel – this form of evil is not for this world and passes from it. As we glorify life and tenderly care for our loved ones we are creating the continuity of our people. Your everyday mundane life is a victory and is the foundation of why we are still here. Do not feel helpless we are winning by existing. Caring and teaching your children how to live by our holy Torah is a war we have always won.
נקום נקמת דם עבדיך השפוך
לכל בני ישראל לא יחרץ כלב לשונו