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We Are the Solution #803

11/17/2023 06:47:00 PM


Rabbi Irwin Huberman

Parashat Toldot

“And Isaac dug anew the wells which had been dug in the days of his father Abraham which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham’s death.”    (Genesis 26:18)

We Are the Solution

This past weekend, I presided over the baby naming of beautiful little girl—Masha Aviva. She was named after her great grandmother, whose funeral I conducted earlier this year.

And as I looked around the room, I noticed many clustered around the reception tables discussing current events in southern Israel and the Gaza.

But I was less interested in the content of the adults’ discussions than I was in the excited chatter of about a dozen small children scampering around the room, punching balloons and consuming large amounts of candy.

And I thought to myself, as I gathered the family and friends that this is how—for thousands of years—we Jews Choose Life.

The Passover Haggadah reminds us that in every generation, a new pharaoh will emerge to test our resolve. We will suffer and be driven to the edge but, again, just as we begin to lose hope, God will redeem us and bring us to freedom.

These days, so many of us feel so helpless. The world’s perception and reaction to Israel’s situation doesn’t seem right. It seems that everyone has their take on the Israel-Hamas War.

And everyone it seems has an opinion or a prediction about how this will end. The truth is: No one knows. A week ago, the public opinion tide turned against Israel. The response to the heinous events of October 7 seemed harsh to many. Indeed, it is at times challenging to watch.

Yet at the close of this week, I feel the world slightly shifting.  We are learning more about the brutality of the barbarians who initiated this war—in particular the graphic details of their murder and mutilation of innocent Israelis.

We are learning that many of the Palestinians, who were employed in nearby Israeli towns, fields and settlements, were the principal scouts and mappers of the Hamas attack.

And now, weapons and tunnels are being discovered below hospitals, providing living proof of what the Israelis have been saying all along: Hamas was been using children, the sick and the vulnerable as human shields.

Although we don’t know how this will end, there are things that we can, and must, do as Jewish people have done for centuries. We must continue to celebrate our births. We must continue gather couples under the chupah. And we shall continue to attend schools and synagogues.

Yes, we are all concerned about events in Israel, and particularly the world-wide wave of anti-Semitism this war has inspired.

We are all looking over our shoulders but considering that there are an estimated 7.6 million Jews in the United States, the direct impact on us—compared to what Israelis are enduring—is minimal. We need to place our situation in perspective.

We would be naïve to assume that there are not lone wolves in our country who may cause injury within our communities, but if we decide to live in a self-imposed prison, then Hamas, Isis and others like them will have achieved a moral victory.

How interesting—as we read this week’s Torah portion—that we witness history repeating itself 4,000 years later.

At that time, an army of barbarians and murderers—the Philistines—invaded the holy land. In addition to perpetrating other atrocities, they dammed up our wells. It is from the word “Philistine” that the name “Palestine” is derived. The ancient Philistine territory included Gaza.

This week’s Torah portion is called Toldot—”generations” and describes how 4,000 years ago, our people, despite relentless attacks, continued to recover and reinvent themselves. How interesting that after the Philistines are repelled, Isaac returns and redigs Abraham’s wells, restoring sources of fresh water.

For the Jewish people water is not only a physical entity, but also spiritual. And isn’t that the ageless story of the Jewish people? 

As we witness events in southern Israel, we come to understand that this is not the first—and it will not be the last—time that Jews have been targeted by direct enemies, such as Pharaoh, Haman and Hitler.

Perhaps we have been lulled over the past 75 years—since the Holocaust—into believing that genocide of this nature could never happen again. But it has, and it will.

So, each of us bears a responsibility to past, present and future generations to continue what started thousands of years ago, as we consider the beginning of this week’s parashah: “And these are the generations of Isaac.” (Genesis 25:19)

We continue to choose life, as we welcome new souls into the world, blessing them with the names inherited from previous generations.

And we continue to redig our wells, despite others’ attempts --then and now—to block them. For we, as a people, stand for justice, herald equality and fairness, and strive to repair this broken world.

Over the centuries, we have been perpetual victims. We have always retreated, waiting for the next attack which inevitably comes with more brutality than before. As uncomfortable as it may sometimes feel, this cycle must eventually end. And that is now.

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I feel an odd sense of appreciation for knowing who our friends and enemies truly are, and I feel a sense of gratitude that despite all our current anxiety, we still live in a free country. We need to turn that gratitude into action.

At the dinner table, at our office water coolers, on social media and when someone utters an anti-Semitic remark, we must remind them that we never asked for this war, but it is our duty—because of Hamas’ brutal and philistine behavior—that this needs to end once and for all.

Israelis are not occupiers. Israel is a nation that, above all, wishes to be left alone in peace. And so this weekend, within this same family circle, I will join another couple in marriage. There will be sounds of children everywhere, and I will not hush them.

For these are the sounds of life. We shall, despite the pain in our hearts, continue to pursue peace and justice, L’dor Vador, from generation to generation. 

And like Abraham and Isaac and hundreds of generations in between, we will neither hide nor retract—as we resolve to reclaim old wells and dig new ones for the future.

As we consider the manifesto of barbarians to establish their rule over the world, we come to realize that Israel is not the problem.

Israel, as it always has been, is the solution.

Shabbat Shalom, V’kol tuv.

Rabbi Irwin Huberman

Tue, November 28 2023 15 Kislev 5784