From My Broken Heart to Yours: Thoughts on Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael, and Ahavas Yisrael
It’s hard for me to find the words.
And you know I’m not trying to be melodramatic.
How do I start? Where do I end?
My heart is at-once wide open and yet completely numb.
How did Simchas Torah become a protracted Tisha B’Av?
During Chol Hamoed, I found myself making plans. I was going to get away with my wonderful mother-in-law for a sweet little vacation in Tel Aviv for a night. I was going to launch headfirst into new projects and tackle my burgeoning To-Do list. My biggest problem was what to cook and finding a plot for my new serial story.
And suddenly, without warning, in a gruesome instant, that’s all over. Vanished. Now my mind and heart are saturated with the unfathomable pain of 1,300 of my slain brothers and sisters, of 150-200 hostages living in unspeakable torment in the clutches of evil, of hundreds of thousands of Jewish soldiers–many of them not even twenty years old!–preparing to put themselves in mortal danger… I could go on, but really, I cannot.
If you are in Israel right now, you know, firsthand, the chaos and trepidation. Grocery shelves are bare. Safe rooms are being made ready. Children are at their wits’ end after a protracted month-long “vacation”, and parents are doing their best to keep it together. Anxiety is the order of the day and it niggles its way into the tiniest things: do I shower now? What if there’s a siren? Is it safe to go to the park?
I was asked to speak to a group of teens last night, and honestly, the person who was most curious about what I would say in my address was…myself! What could I possibly say? How could any words encompass the depth of what we are experiencing? And yet, our Torah and our mesorah bolster us through the darkest of times. Here’s what I shared with the girls. Perhaps it will resonate with you?
It gives me chills to write this, but there can be no coincidence about the timing of this cataclysmic event. On Simchas Torah, we finished V’Zos Ha’Bracha and then immediately launched into Parshas Bereishis, which we then read in its entirety this Shabbos. Bereishis! The very first word of the Torah encapsulates the entire travesty–and the Jewish People’s eternal response.
“כח מעשיו הגיד לעמו לתת להם נחלת גויים”, says Rashi. When the nations of the world come and say, “You Jews are thieves! You have plundered our lands!”, we will have a ready response: “Hashem created the world. It’s His and He has designated it for His children, Am Yisrael.” These words are just as timely now as they were at the time of Creation. This is our unyielding answer to Hamas (chilling to see how many times the word appears in Tehillim, aptly connoting extreme violence and chicanery): Eretz Yisrael belongs to Am Yisrael. Period. Full stop. Hashem created the world and only He decides what belongs to whom.
As the lucky mother of four boys, you can be sure that our family is well-stocked with trucks. And yet many years ago, one of my sons took the love of vehicles to a completely new level when he managed to convince my brother-in-law, Boruch Taub, z”l, (Tragically, Boruch was the pilot killed in the plane crash near JFK in May), who owned an autobody shop in Cleveland, to bring him a full-sized, authentic steering wheel. Somehow, Boruch shlepped a ten-pound steering wheel all the way to Eretz Yisrael making a little Pomerantz boy VERY happy. So it was that whenever we went somewhere, there were two drivers in the car: I would sit up front, while my son sat in the back, navigating flawlessly with his steering wheel.
“Turn right!” he’d say, as he swiveled the wheel. “Now go straight!” All these maneuvers were accompanied by prodigious, perfectly-executed car noises down to the a capella screeching of brakes and plenty of simulated honking.
In his mind, my little son really felt like it was he who was driving the car.
And here I’m guessing you don’t need me to spell out the allegory…
As of a week ago, I think many of us have been forced to grow up and do away with our childish beliefs about who is actually in the driver’s seat. (Spoiler alert: It ain’t Bibi or Tzahal or the UN or the US or…) The charade is over. The screen has been ripped down. So many of our strongholds have been dismantled. And you know what?
It’s scary and it’s beautiful.
Seldom have we seen more ahavas Yisrael. Seldom have we felt more unity and connection. Seldom have we davened the way we are davening today. Seldom have we reevaluated our strategies, our lives, our goals, our purpose, with such fervor and clarity. The “hester panim” is fading, and in its place a deeper understanding of Hashem’s complete and total Rule over the entire universe is becoming crystal clear. We may have celebrated Rosh Hashana just one short month ago, but I feel like we, as a world, have made a gargantuan leap forward in realizing that Hashem is the only King.
Still, questions abound. Hard questions. Questions that keep me up at night. How could we not cry and shudder when the pasuk reverberating in my head is straight from the darkest parsha of the Tochacha:, מחוץ תשכל חרב ומחדרים אימה גם בחור גם בתולה יונק עם איש שיבה!?
Many years ago, I heard a beautiful story that I wanted to retell last night. I searched the Yalkut Shimoni, I searched Otzar Ha’Sefarim, and Rabbi Google, but to no avail. Finally, I called Rabbi Dovid Kaplan, who had originally told the story, and he generous re-shared it. The source is apparently a Me’am Lo’ez.
The beauty and poignancy of the story is such that I felt it would be better conveyed in speech rather than the written word, so here is the link to the short video I made to tell this story, from my heart to yours:
And last but not least, If you are in Israel and need some relaxation and/or entertainment for you or your kids during these hard times, I want to offer you two online Skillnosh.com courses absolutely free, donated by the amazingly talented (and generous!) artist-illustrators Andrew Galitzer and Dena Ackerman. Choose one or both of these fabulous courses:
To get your free courses, just email me. 💕💕 Feel free to pass on this information to anyone else who might need it.
May Hashem forever erase our tears and our pain, and shower us with the most incredible joy and ecstasy. May we experience tremendous miracles and the Geulah shelaima quickly and gently in our days.