Nearly 300,000 Jews and friends of Israel and the Jewish people converged on National Mall this past week in a show of solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Israel and as an expression of resilience in the face of rising antisemitism in the diaspora. This was the largest Jewish gathering in United States history. We affirmed our support for the State of Israel in its war against Hamas. We gave our extended family thousands of miles away a giant hug and we told them, “We love you.” The question is now what? Where do we go from here? And the answer is simple. We do exactly what we’ve being doing before, but let’s do it now with greater purpose, greater focus and greater determination.
To me, the rally was like Shabbat. One of the basic questions about Shabbat is whether Shabbat occurs at the end of creation or after creation. On the surface, it seems that God created the world for six days and then on the seventh day, He stopped creating. However, the Torah does say “vayechal Elokim bayom hashvi’i melachto asher asah” (Breishit 2:2), that God finished His work on the seventh day. If God finished His work on the seventh day, then that would seem to indicate that He had in fact worked on the seventh day. But didn’t God rest on the seventh day? Rashi (ibid.) addresses this question, explaining that “bata Shabbat, bata menucha,” meaning that “Shabbat came, menucha came.” Rashi’s words shed light on the nature of God’s work on the seventh day. When Shabbat arrived on that day, God created menucha.
What is menucha? Is it simply resting, refreshing ourselves for the coming week? In Parshat Yitro, the Torah tells us “vayanach bayom hashvi’i” (Shemot 20:11). God engaged in menucha on the seventh day. Certainly, God does not need to rest to refresh Himself for the upcoming week. Clearly, this reference to “rest” much refer to something else.
The Targum Yerushalmi (Breishit 2:2) translates the phrase, “vayechal Elokim bayom hashvi’i,” as “v’chamid Hashem b’yoma shvi’a’a” – God delighted in all that He created on the seventh day. Perhaps then, a more accurate description of menucha involves stopping and reflecting with pride on our accomplishments during the week. Perhaps this is what God did. When the world was created, there was absolute chaos – “tohu va’vohu” – and then order was created. First, light was created, followed by a division of light and darkness, a division of waters and a division of land and water, and then constellations, birds, fish, animals and man were formed or created. There was order. Then Shabbat came and menucha came. The first Shabbat in existence was a time to reflect on the order that was just created. Every Shabbat is a time to reflect on the order that we try to create in our lives during the week. All week long, we follow a detailed and prescribed structure, hopefully bringing order to the chaos and meaning to the ephemeral. And at the end of the week, God asks us to do one more important task. Rest, reflect, and engage in the important work of menucha.
In this respect, the March for Israel rally this week was like Shabbat. For the past month since the horrific Simchat Torah massacre we have been doing so much to try to bring order to a world turned upside down. We are trying to help our brothers and sisters in Israel and in the diaspora who are fighting Hamas and who are fighting antisemitism. We have been praying. We have been observing additional mitzvot as a merit for success in our war to end Hamas terrorism. We have been giving charity in support of the war effort. We have been writing letters to our political leaders. We have been reaching out to our brothers and sisters in Israel to tell them that they are not alone. We have spoken out on social media. We all worked so hard to bring almost 300,000 people to Washington on such short notice. And then… menucha! We all came together! We stood together! We sang together! We cheered together! We cried together! We recited Tehillim together! This was our Shabbat, a time which our Sages describe as “mai’ain olam haba,” a taste of the world to come. And it was indeed a taste of the world to come, because for those precious moments at National Mall, we were all united, k’ish echad b’lev echad, like one person with one heart.
Now what? We continue. We continue to pray. We continue to observe additional mitzvot as a merit for success in our war to end Hamas terrorism. We continue to give charity in support of the war effort. We continue to write letters to our political leaders. We continue to reach out to our brothers and sisters in Israel. We continue to speak out on social media. And now we do so with greater purpose, greater focus and greater determination than ever before. We do so after being invigorated by the “menucha” from our rally. We do so after having been inspired by Jews from across the political and religious spectrum. We do so with the hope for a better future for our nation both in Eretz Yisrael and in the diaspora. We do so with a resolve to continue our efforts until our Hamas is eliminated, the hostages are returned and Israel is secure. We do so with even greater conviction and faith that no matter what anyone tries to do to harm us, am Yisrael chai. We choose to live.