Friday, October 27, 2023

A Nation Dwells Alone

A bitter irony that has emerged since the war that Hamas recently initiated has been the clarity we have received about our standing in the world. The initial shock from the attacks and subsequent condemnation of the depravity committed by Hamas has transitioned to nuanced and equivocal statements from other nations as they counsel Israel on how to defend itself against an existential threat. Russia demanded an immediate ceasefire and a promise from Israel to allow the delivery of humanitarian into Gaza. This is especially rich as Russia has deliberately targeted the civilian infrastructure of Ukraine. Independent accounts have confirmed that over 27,000 Ukrainian civilians have been killed since it began the war against Ukraine less than two years ago. Considering the high casualties, would it consider a ceasefire in its war against Ukraine? Not to be outdone in its anti-Semitic rhetoric, Turkey said that Hamas aren't terrorists; they're mujahideen defending the homeland. As I wasn't sure what mujahideen are, I looked up the definition, and mujahideen are Muslims who fight on behalf of their faith and the Muslim community. This statement came from a NATO ally that America supplies advanced fighter jets. Here in America, much has been reported about the inaction of Ivy League universities to condemn unadulterated Jew hatred that is proliferated on its campuses. Pro-Hamas rallies are taking place nationwide, and its supporters are more assertive in their contempt for the Jewish People. I mention all this not to make everyone more depressed but rather to encourage some reflection. For thousands of years, Jews were targeted by violent mobs who killed and pillaged our ancestors. There was some wishful thinking that those tragic memories were permanently in our rearview mirror. At the very least, if a violent mob would ever unleash a pogrom against our people, the enlightened world would condemn those actions and come to our defense. The Jewish People are referred to a הֶן־עָם֙ לְבָדָ֣ד יִשְׁכֹּ֔ן וּבַגּוֹיִ֖ם לֹ֥א יִתְחַשָּֽׁב. This passage is translated as a nation that dwells alone and is not respected among the nations. In this week Parsha, God promises Avraham the Land of Israel, and this promise was subsequently codified to Yitzchak and Yaakov and their descendants. The Land of Israel is so holy and unique that other faiths and people continue their thousands of years of practice of killing Jews to claim that they are the true heirs to the Land. It's essential to embrace our status in the world and work on being worthy heirs to this precious gift as other nations continue to be tepid with their support. It's important to remember the Talmudic teaching that we have no one to rely on but our Father in Heaven. Let's continue to plead with Him that Israel can defeat the forces that want its demise. Have a Peaceful Shabbos, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch

Friday, October 20, 2023

Rising to the Occasion

Everything is not OK. The trauma of the events that unfolded in Israel starting on Simchas Torah is settling in and not going away. Pogroms from the past that we thought was distant history has reared its ugly head, and the unimaginable and unthinkable has occurred. The immediate future is very unsettling as Israel prepares to send its brave young people into harm's way as it fights for the Jewish People's survival. In another unprecedented development, hundreds of thousands of Jews who live near the northern and southern borders have evacuated from their communities. It's important to reflect on appropriate reactions to these developments. Obviously, this is a highly emotional and charged issue. We are so connected to Israel in many ways that it triggers an emotional response. We are obsessively checking the news, and that is understandable. At a certain point, it may be worthwhile to ask ourselves if constantly checking the news is the best way to spend our time. It's essential to focus on what actionable items we can do at this sensitive time that actually make a difference. I have been heartwarmed from the outpouring of love we have witnessed from Jews worldwide to assist our brothers and sisters in Israel. On a financial level, there was unprecedented support, with Israel Bonds reporting 200 million dollars of bond purchases in one week. The national UJA Federations announced a 500 million dollar emergency campaign, and within a week, they had already raised 388 million dollars. These are just two organizations of so many that are channeling the support of Jews of America into action. I was proud of our community that came together and opened their hearts to contribute to the drive that Rabbi Joey Hamaoui organized generously. A steady stream of people from all over the community came into our shul lobby and dropped off goods and supplies to be sent to Israel. Several vehicles drove to Miami (thank you to all the amazing drivers) to transport the supplies, where they were sorted and packed for shipment to Israel. Our community contributed approximately 500 pounds of supplies which were shipped on one palette. All together, from donations throughout the country, 100 palettes were shipped from Miami this week to Israel! As the war is expected to intensify and more people may be displaced from their homes, we anticipate future drives for this worthy cause. Another way of contributing to the effort is, of course through prayer. There is a website tehillimlechayal.org, that has a list of names for about 17,000 soldiers. Every time you go to the site, it links you to a specific soldier for whom you can pray. As of today there were over 188,000 chapters of Tehillim recited on that website alone. The nation of Israel is in a crisis it has not seen in decades. The call is for all hands on deck. There are so many actionable things that we can do to make a difference. Let's rise to the moment! Have a peaceful Shabbos, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch

Friday, October 13, 2023

Israel in Crisis

This past week has been one of unparalleled trauma for the Jewish People. The unthinkable and unimaginable has occurred and continues to unfold. Israeli Soldiers who came to the villages after the brazen terror attacks described scenes reminiscent of the Holocaust. A significant component of the trauma is that the creation of the modern Jewish State with a powerful army was to ensure the carnage against our people from ever occurring again. The slogan of Never Again seems a bit hollow at the moment. The ideology of unadulterated Jew-hatred has been bequeathed from the Nazis to Hamas. Unfortunately, this is not a new situation. The Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin Al Husseini, was a personal friend of Hitler and shared the Nazi ideology. Hamas and its cousins are the heirs of this ideology that puts a premium on and rejoices with the killing of Jews. In a larger sense, they are the heirs to a very long list of rabid Jew haters in our history. From Babylon to Rome to Berlin, they have risen to destroy our people. Despite the great pain and suffering, they have never been successful. As we recite in the Haggadah, “It was not just the Pharaoh that rose up against our people. Rather, in every generation, they rise up against us, and the Almighty saves us from their hands.” At this moment, it would be appropriate to embrace our feelings of vulnerability, and turn towards G-d, and beseech Him for heavenly mercy. The IDF soldiers are in a very precarious situation and have a long and difficult road ahead of them to restore security to its borders. Some of us who live in America feel at a loss as to what we can do to contribute for Israel. There are many ways one can be supportive of our brothers and sisters. It’s important that people of Israel do not feel alone at this time. I have been in contact with some friends and family in Israel this week, and they expressed their appreciation for the messages of love and support they get from Jews living in the diaspora. A silver lining to the crisis is the unity and solidarity that we see among our people. All political and religious differences suddenly seem so trivial. There has been an outpouring of kindness, goodness, and love from one another. Haman, an ancestor (in ideology) to Hamas, stated that the Jewish People are so divided, which is why he thought he could eliminate us. Esther instructed Mordechai to unify all Jews and come together for prayer. That strategy paid off as we defeated Haman and his cronies. It’s imperative that we continue to seek ways to unify and build bridges with one another. In that merit, may the Guardian of Israel watch over us and deliver salvation to our people. Have a Peaceful Shabbos, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch

Most Destructive Word in the English Language

I have always been intrigued by the “word of the year.” This last year of 2023, Merriam Webster designated “authentic” as the WOTY (word of ...