Monday, July 14, 2014

Are You Okay?

It’s been a hard question to answer lately. Although I truly appreciate the caring phone calls and emails I find it hard to respond. Normally an optimistic and positive person, I am very uncomfortable admitting that life is not so great right now in Israel. For the last month tension has become the norm.  Yet, along with the anxiety and stress we are turning together more and more to HaShem and that gives me hope. I pray that our unity continues.

Last week, on the second day of the current war, I attended a brit milah in the holy city of Safed. With its ancient synagogues, winding alleys, colorful artist’s colony, and vibrant population Safed is a most special place. The hesder yeshiva where the brit was held is a most unique place inside this special city. Under the leadership of Rav Ayal boys from all over Israel commit themselves to the army for five years. Part of those years they are obligated to learn in the yeshiva and be prepared to be called into service at a moment’s notice. Part of the years is spent in active duty. At the time of the brit a number of the young men had been called up to war and were missing from the yeshiva.

No gathering in this yeshiva is complete without singing. As those gathered waited for all the family members to arrive there was singing and dancing accompanied by guitars and drums. Finally the moment came for the ceremony to begin. The uncle of the baby, a soldier in uniform who had received a few hours’ leave for the occasion, took the baby from his wife and handed him to the baby’s father. It was HaRav Shmuel Eliyahu, son of HaRav Mordechai Eliyahu, ztz"l, the former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, who was the sandek, the godfather. Rav Ayal, from a prominent Ashkenazi family, pronounced the blessings. The two grandfathers, one an Israeli-born sabra from a Moroccan family and the other an America immigrant from an Eastern European family, held the baby for various parts of the service.
The two grandfathers with the uncle behind them

As we sang the pleas, HaShem save us now, HaShem save us now, HaShem bring us success now, HaShem bring us success now, I was moved to tears. Would HaShem hear our appeal? How would He answer us? I looked around the room and saw all the many different representatives of the Jewish people gathered together to usher the little baby into the covenant of Avraham. We were united in love and caring. Surely that would impress the Holy One.

In the midst of war we are poised to enter The Three Weeks that lead up to Tisha B’Av, the solemn, sad day on which we commemorate the destruction of both the first and second Holy Temples. Our sages teach that the Second Temple was destroyed because of senseless hatred. Until today we are a fractured people finding reasons to quarrel about every little thing. However, the eighteen days that Ayal, Naftali, and Gil-ad were missing we became an united people who agreed that we needed to pray to our Maker and plead for Him to bring the boys home. They came home, not the way we wanted, but they did come home.

And then, a week later in week in Safed a number of us, secular and religious, Ashkenazi and Sephardic, soldiers and civilians, young and old were united. We all agreed that it was important to escort the little baby to become part of the Jewish people. May we only have more and more such gatherings. Then this could be the year that, instead of fasting on Tisha B’Av, we will celebrate the arrival of the Moshiach.