Thursday, November 29, 2012


World War Two ended eight years before I was born. The jubilation of greeting the homecoming soldiers was something I knew only from documentaries. What a wonderful feeling it must have been then to think that the soldiers were coming home for good and there would be no more war.
My soldier came home from the Gaza border Sunday night. He served for ten days and in the course of those ten days he received a lot of love and support. His friend’s mother who lives near the border baked a total of forty-five cakes for his unit. A van full of supporters came out into the field blaring music and passing out junk food. And neighbors at home organized to help his wife and the other women whose husbands were called up.

It was not just the soldiers who received love and support but also the Israelis living in the south of Israel who were facing constant onslaught from Hamas. Scores of families offered to host anyone who wanted to leave the bombarded area. In fact, more people wanted to host than those who wanted to leave. Cakes and cards were sent to them by caring people. Once the ceasefire was called there were busloads of Israelis going to Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Kiryat Malachi to do some shopping and give moral support.
One of the most touching stories I heard was of a couple making the final plans for their wedding with their event planner. On the second day of the war the IDF gave firm instructions that there could be no gatherings of more than one hundred people anywhere within forty kilometers of Gaza. Rabbi Amor, Israel’s chief Sephardi Rabbi, explained that any weddings in the area had to be moved.  That meant that a lot of brides and grooms were scrambling to find an empty hall out of the rockets’ range. It was not an easy task. So this couple, who were getting married near Beit Shemesh, told their event planner that they would be happy to share their hall with another couple.
That did not happen but it was an unselfish act of caring. The night of their wedding the ceasefire was signed. The refugees from the south returned to their homes. The schools reopened. The soldiers began going home. However, no one thought they were coming home for good and that there would be no more war.
It is easy to begin wondering why G-d lets there be such evil in the world as Hamas. Perhaps the answer is in the Torah portion that will be read in all synagogues around the world this Shabbat. In Genesis, Chapter 32, verse 25 we read that Yaacov was left alone and a man wrestled with him until sunrise. Our sages teach us that this man was not a human being, rather an angel, Esau’s guardian angel, none other than Satan, the prime force of evil. Yaacov fought with this angel all night long and he prevailed. In the end the angel blessed Yaacov and told him he would receive an additional name, Yisroel, meaning he had prevailed over an angel.   
There are many, many commentaries about this encounter between Yaacov and the angel. This week I received a special insight from a lecture given by Shira Smiles*. Evil is part of G-d’s plan because He wants us to use it as a tool to serve Him. One of our tasks in this world is to vanquish evil and to elevate the evil-doer along with ourselves. We see in verse 27 that the angel begs to be released because it is dawn. Again we turn to our commentators who teach that the angel needed to leave at sunrise so he could sing G-d’s praises. This fight between Yaacov and the angel elevated both of them. Yaacov received an additional name and the angel was finally able to be part of the heavenly choir.
What can I personally learn from this? I cannot fight evil as my son and all our brave soldiers did. What I can do, though, is learn from so many special people who did so many acts of kindness last week. Perhaps the unselfish act of the bride and groom along with all the other acts of reaching out will destroy the evil of Hamas. Then we will be able to greet our soldiers with parades and songs. We will know that they are coming home for good and there will, indeed, be no more war.
 *see Naaleh Online, Parshat Vayishlach, Jarring Jars


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