We have always been a people with a religion and a long tradition of taking responsibility. Responsible for the world around us, for our own actions, but above all for our neighbors and especially for the members of the People of Israel.
Our prayers invite us to be recited in a minyan, although we can say them individually. Celebrations are communal. Sadness is too. We ARE people, not separate individuals who profess the same faith.
Even in our giurim, our conversions, when people approach with the intention of becoming part of the People of Israel, we do not convert those who live isolated in the midst of a desert, whatever desert it may be. The new Jew, for all purposes, must integrate into a congregation, into a Jewish community.
If we are responsible for each other, we are responsible for the suffering of our brothers and sisters in Eretz Israel, in the Land of Israel. If we are responsible for our people, we must connect in some way, by praying, by talking to the people around us. We must convey the Judeo-Israeli version of what is happening in the Middle East, although in recent days it is evident on its own.
We must condemn what needs to be condemned. Terrorism is not war. Rape and massacre are not war. Children in cages are not war. This must be clear.
We are responsible for the people affected by this war on terrorism, even here in our homes, in our cities. All those who feel stressed by the images, by the anxiety of information, should not remain on the sidelines of what is happening. We must create spaces for conversation and the expression of the anxieties and concerns that all of this generates.
We must go to our temples to pray. We must be attentive to those who need our support to move forward despite the losses, despite the images, despite the news. Kol Israel arevim ze la ze, every member of the People of Israel is responsible for one another.
In this case, in this situation, we must widen the circle. We must also be responsible for those around us who are affected and are not Jewish. The offense of terrorist acts was against our people, but the consequences are for the whole world, for every inhabitant of our world, and perhaps especially for the United States of America.
This week, we begin again as we turn to the opening of Sefer Bereshit, the Book of Genesis.
Yet, we not only begin Torah anew, but also as we begin re-reading the commentary of Rashi, a beloved eleventh-century commentator from France. In his opening comment on Torah, Rashi asks why does Torah begin with Creation? He makes it clear that it is to demonstrate that the entire world belongs to God, and lest the nations of the world come and say to the People of Israel, you have stolen the land of Israel, the people can respond that the land was given rightfully to them.
ָּכל הָאָרֶץ שֶׁל הַקָּבָּ”ה הִיא, הוּא בְרָאָהּ וּנְתָנָהּ לַאֲשֶׁר יָשַׁר בְּעֵינָיו, בִּרְצוֹנוֹ נְתָנָהּ לָהֶם, וּבִרְצוֹנוֹ נְטָלָהּ מֵהֶם וּנְתָנָהּ לָנוּ
All the earth belongs to the Creator; He created it and gave it to whom He deemed right in His eyes. By His will, He gave it to them, and by His will, He took it from them and gave it to us.
Why does Rashi transform a universal moment of creation into a particular moment connected to Israel? It is because of the horrific times in which Rashi lived – during the Crusades – in which Jews were powerless, persecuted, and exiled from their Homeland. Rashi sought to remind his people that they have a Home with a capital 'H'. Our Home is under attack. We awoke on the morning of Shabbat and Simchat Torah at 7:30 a.m. to the blaring of air raid sirens in Jerusalem. Moments later, the details of the barbaric attack that Hamas terrorists were unleashing on Israel would trickle in.
We are defending what is rightfully our Homeland, four thousand years of Jewish history and connection will never be denied or undermined. How blessedly different is our reality from the world in which Rashi lived!
75 years of a remarkable country; the Jewish people has returned livnot u’lehibanot, to build and be built; and we have an army to defend ourselves and defend we will.
But we must be clear. This time and this Sunday have nothing to do with claiming what we believe is a right for the survival of our HOME in the Middle East, in our land.
This time and this Sunday are about repudiating terrorism; about repudiating indiscriminate and barbaric killing; the destruction of senseless lives; the beheading of children and the destruction of the lives of innocent teenagers, families, and elderly people, living lives unrelated to any conflict or claim.
Contributing to Israeli causes supporting families struck by the horrors of Hamas' barbarity is the greatest gift you can give living through this very dark chapter in the State of Israel.
Send messages to everyone you know and love in Israel. Words of support and love mean the world to them. By doing so, you are affirming the unbreakable bonds of Jewish peoplehood; and you are stating clearly, every moral and ethical human being in this world must raise their voices in support of Israel.
עוד לא אבדה תקוותנו – התקווה בת שנות אלפיים להיות עם חופשי בארצנו ארץ ציון וירושלים
We have not and WILL NOT lose hope – in this hope of 2,000 years—to be a free people in our homeland, the Land of Zion and Jerusalem.
It's time to start anew, to begin from the beginning. Bereshit, the Creation, invites us to reconsider our commitments. This recommitment is now not only with the People of Israel, of course, but with all of humanity, which cannot and should not allow an act of total terrorism to go unpunished.
Am Israel Chai ve Yivi, the people of Israel live and will live. Those who don't accept it have not yet understood the value of our history and our tradition of over 2,000 years, nor the strength that our Torah and the Holy One, Blessed Be He, have in our daily lives.
In memory of all the victims of the barbaric killings by members of Hamas, may their names be forever erased.
יהיו נשמתם צרורות בצרור החיים
Yhihu nishmatam tzrurot bitzror hachaiim.
May their souls be bound up in the bundle of life.
Shabbat Shalom and see you on Sunday at 5pm at the JCC.
Rabbi Gustavo Geier