Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Current Terror. Noah and Abraham Facing Evil

These are difficult days.

One walks through the streets and wonders if murder will strike  .at any moment. Terror terrorizes; it undermines and frustrates the calm of normal routine. I just walked through Talpiot's main shopping street. Streets are depleted. Everyone is eyeing up the other passers-by. On the streets, people are feeling tense, sad, even frightened. Everyone at work is tense, bracing for the next dreadful news report.

What are we to think? What can we say?

One thing is to gain some perspective.

Yesterday, my son's (home room teacher)  מחנך had a chat with the kids. He told them that the media "exaggerate" things and things are not as worrying as they sound. It was a discussion to calm the nerves of 10-year-olds, but really, he is not wrong; it was quite a good thing to say to young kids. The news doesn't reflect their lives, safe in school or safe at home. The vast majority of people will see no violence, will still have a job, will be healthy and safe, will go to work and shop and return to their loved ones. Israel is in good shape as a whole. My head can say that. My head can also say that the 2nd Intifada was far worse. All true!

But my nerves are not calmed. Why? Because an unlucky few will most probably NOT come home safe and sound. We all fear where the next attack will take place and if it will be on my watch.

I turn to the parsha for inspiration. Noah is faced with an evil, violent, generation; an environment of "Hamas" to quote Genesis. How does he respond? He hides. Under God's command, he takes refuge in an Ark. Humanity die; Noah is saved. But afterwards, what do we hear of him? Noah plants a vineyard and gets drunk. After the flood, Noah cannot face life. He turns to the bottle.

Noah is contrasted with Abraham. In the Midrashic imagination Abraham also confronts a world in disarray; for the Midrash the world is a " palace in flames". Society is on fire; threatening to destroy civilisation. Abraham is depicted as wondering: “Is it possible that the palace lacks an owner?” The owner of the palace looked out and said, “I am the owner of the palace.” So Abraham our father said, “Is it possible that the world lacks a ruler?” G-d looked out and said to him, “I am the ruler, the Sovereign of the universe.”Rabbi Sacks writes:

"This is an extraordinary passage... Surely the owner should be putting out the flames. You don’t leave a palace empty and unguarded. Yet the owner of the palace calls out to him, as G-d called to Abraham, asking him to help fight the fire. G-d needs us to fight the destructive instinct in the human heart. This is Abraham, the fighter against injustice, the man who sees the beauty of the natural universe being disfigured by the sufferings inflicted by man on man."
We are Abraham's children. When we see a world in flames, when we see violence, we do not shy away or back down; we fight to build a better world. We will not act like Noah and closet ourselves away; we will, like Avraham, vow to build a world of "tzedek umishpat - righteousness and justice," compassion and truth.

Israel has faced violence before. Terror is designed to frighten us, to unsettle us. We shall not hide away like Noah; we shall confront the world and the evil that surrounds us - that is our Abrahamic legacy. We shall uphold our right to the land, as well as our commitment to justice and kindness.
  • With full determination, we shall fight on defending our Jewish right to the land of Israel.
  • With full determination we shall continue to work to make Israel a light unto the nations.
  • We will try to continue with our routine while taking maximum care.
  • We will try to inform our children in safe ways, without alarming them.
  • With full determination we shall continue to build our lives, and thrive in Eretz Yisrael.
  • אתהלך לפני ה' בארצות החיים

Today is Rosh Hodesh and we said Hallel.  Sometimes we say Hallel and focus upon God's bountiful blessingsהודו לה' כי טוב כי לעולם חסדו.

At other times, like today, we pray
אנא ה' הושיעה נא!
מן המצר קראתי י–ה ענני במרחב י-ה!