Congregation Chofetz Chayim
Yesterday’s appalling tragedy has shaken Jews the world over.
In the peaceful, beautiful neighborhood of Har Nof, Jerusalem, worshipers at a synagogue were brutally attacked by Palestinian terrorists wielding guns and butcher cleavers. Within a half hour, five women became widows and 24 children became orphans.
The enormity of the tragedy that occurred at Har Nof is magnified by the actions in Gaza, where people joyously paraded in the streets and gave out candy as a response to the brutal murders of innocent people.
The synagogue tragedy was amplified by the response of the grandmother of Abdel Rahman al Shaludi, who a month ago viciously rammed his car into a crowd of people waiting for the Jerusalem light rail, killing a three-month-old baby and a 22-year-old woman and injuring many others.
Yesterday the IDF demolished the Shaludi family house as a response to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s pledge that terrorism will not be tolerated. The grandmother, sitting in the ruins of the home, stated that she is proud of her grandson’s actions.
How alien this is to our thinking and to our way of life. What is a Jewish grandmother, and for that matter, any grandmother in our America, proud of? She is proud of her grandchildren’s kindness, good character and their accomplishments that benefit mankind. This grandmother is proud that her grandson is a terrorist.
How do we respond to a society of murderers and people who rejoice with murder? As Jews, we can see clearly that in many ways in our times, these terrorist acts are an exact replica of what happened to our ancestors in Egypt.
In Deuteronomy 32:7, we are taught to “remember days long gone by.” Here G-d has charged us with the ability to look into our past and learn how to deal with events that occur in our time and in all time.
At every Passover Seder, down through the ages, we have recounted that which was taught to us in Exodus 12:29 about the plague that took all of the first-born of Egypt. Looking back, we might ask the question, “Why was every first-born punished? Was every first-born a taskmaster? Was every first-born a murderer?”
The Midrash explains that all of Egypt rejoiced when a Jew was oppressed. The entire Egyptian society rejoiced at torture, pain and anguish inflicted on the Jew.
How do we respond to a society of people who rejoice when we are tortured and butchered, and when grandmothers celebrate the carnage?
We have two choices. One choice is to focus on the question of how the tragedy happened and to distance ourselves from G-d.
Another choice is to turn to G-d in deeper prayer, and to thank G-d for the glorious gift of our Torah, which teaches us to love and value life and never be like the butchers of humanity. In our appreciation, we strive even more to cherish G-d’s gift and to study and live by the Torah.
Our ancestors in Egypt made the choice to call out to G-d in prayer for help. The Ramban, Nachmanides, explains that precisely at the time the entire unified Jewish people called out to G-d in Egypt, in a distant desert many miles away, G-d appeared to Moses at the burning bush and the redemption of the Jewish people was set into motion.
To turn away from G-d and become broken is exactly what our enemies want to happen. That’s why they chose to go into the synagogue and butcher men in the middle of prayer. Our response must be like the response of our forefathers, to come closer to G-d at this time, and know that no one else will help us except for G-d himself.
Rabbi Israel Becker
26 Cheshvan 5775
Congregation Anshei Israel
With a heart that is no longer whole … rent as a garment torn by a mourner … I can only repeat the words of The Rabbinical Assembly, the organization of Conservative Rabbis: The Rabbinical Assembly is appalled by the horrendous attack that occurred this morning at Kehilat Bnei Torah in Har Nof in Jerusalem, killing four rabbis and wounding numerous others. The RA is particularly dismayed by the evil of attacking Jews in a synagogue while praying … this attack is especially brutal and senseless in that it occurred in a holy place meant to be a sanctuary, and it is "an act of pure terror."
This attack comes on the heels of numerous other vehicle and stabbing attacks in Israel that have killed innocent people attempting to carry on normally with their everyday lives. The RA strongly condemns those responsible, and calls upon Palestinian leadership to urgently lead their people toward peace and away from gruesome attacks on blameless Israeli citizens. We also call on all world leaders and governments, especially those in the Arab World, to condemn acts of terrorism committed against civilians. The RA joins with the worldwide Jewish community and extends its deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and prays for strength to our Israeli brothers and sisters.
May our prayers for peace be answered speedily and in our day.
Rabbi Robert Eisen