William Hamilton

Why now?

So much pain and loss. It’s been a week of trust-shredding. Why and why now?

When it comes to expressing ‘why’, there is asking why and shrieking why. It can be more of a groan than an inquiry; more a cry than a query. But here and now ‘why’ signals a search. It alludes to the second of Matti Friedman’s eight terrific tips for Reading about Israel He suggests an effective way to determine whether a news source comes from a journalist promoting understanding or an activist pushing you to their conclusions, is to ask: Why are you telling me this?

So why is this happening? Who stands to benefit most from slamming into reverse all of the progress accrued in recents years, like the rising esteem for Israeli-Arabs post-COVID and Israel’s normalization in the Gulf region? Who saw these things not as beneficial, but as threats to their extinction? Hamas of course. Their aim in unrest. Their business model is bloodshed. And their means is to lacerate trust.

Opting not to give Hamas the upper hand is not a forensic decision. The anger is raging, the betrayal is crude, and the fear is raw. Triggering fierce feelings is also part of Hamas’s GDP.

This brings us to the second question: Why now? The religious calendar holds the answer. This year in particular it facilitated a combustable convergence. It enabled violent extremists to engineer a blaze in their faith’s third holiest site as Ramadan’s culmination coincided with Jerusalem Day rejoicing.

Enter this weekend, when our spiritual wellsprings arrive just in time. This week’s portion of Torah sets an orderly stage for wilderness wanderings, while the prophet Hosea happens to specialize in strongly felt emotions. “Betroth with faithful trust and keep on getting to know God” (Hos. 2:22). Then, with the beginning of Shavuot on Sunday night, we’ll receive the whole Torah at Sinai. It will remind us what we’re here for and what we stand for.

Earlier this week in response to the first indications that Hamas thugs were igniting grass-roots rioting in local towns, Rachel Sharansky Danziger lamented: “It does mean that the sun will rise tomorrow on less trust and far more ashes.”

Rising above the bone-chilling aim of those who seek, Bari Weiss conveys with dependable clarity, the eradication of the Jewish People is what we’re now called to do. Weathering this monsoon of mob-rage will try our spirits. The way forward is to cling again to Hosea’s promise, which Zionism’s dreamers and fulfillers have kept faith with for more than a century: to transform “a valley of trouble and agony to an opening toward hope’s gateway” (Hos. 2:17).

May the forces that impel us forward flow from familiar wells for the well being of all who long to put us back on course.

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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