Shabbat Shalom

Dear WJC Family,

It was incredible to have about 100 of us representing WJC at the DC Rally on Tuesday. It was such a beautiful day. As Ian Winters, one of WJC’s vice presidents, pointed out to me, “It’s amazing how many times “peace” and “love” have been uttered at this march.” It’s true! The gathering may have been sparked by our shared pain, but what was felt there was an outpouring of love and mutual support.

Another friend of ours texted us, “What an amazing day. I think the most amazing thing for me is how not-alone I feel. Didn’t realize how alone I felt, even with wonderful Jewish and non-Jewish friends. Now I feel much not-alone.” That rang true to me as well. One of the things I reported after returning from Israel was that despite the soul-crushing things I’d seen there, I also felt comforted there. It was the comfort of knowing that everyone you encountered was going through the same thing you were. It didn’t make everything better, but it made you feel “not alone.” That was a feeling I think many were able to experience for the first time in Washington DC.

Lastly, on Tuesday I was proud to be an American Jew. The DC Rally brought the incredible nature of the American Jewish community into full focus – its diversity, its commitment to the ideals of America, as well as its eternal ties to the Jewish community of the Land of Israel. 300,000 strong we rose to the call of Klal Yisrael (the unity of the Jewish people) and I was kvelling!

I hope you saw my video of the whole crowd seeing HaTikveh together on Facebook. In case you’re not a FB person, I uploaded it to YouTube – it’s worth taking a minute and a half to watch by clicking here. And a bonus for the email – check out the video link below to see 300,000 people praying the Acheinu (Our Brothers), Prayer for Captives together.

Speaking of brothers, in this week’s Torah portion, Toldot, we are introduced to twin brothers: Jacob and Esau. We first meet them in the womb of their mother Rebecca.

.וַיִּתְרֹֽצְצ֤וּ הַבָּנִים֙ בְּקִרְבָּ֔הּ וַתֹּ֣אמֶר אִם־כֵּ֔ן לָ֥מָּה זֶּ֖ה אָנֹ֑כִי וַתֵּ֖לֶךְ לִדְרֹ֥שׁ אֶת־יְהֹוָֽה

But the children struggled in her womb, and she said, “If so, why do I exist?” She went to inquire of יהוה,

-Genesis 25:22

I have been thinking about Rebecca’s lament a lot this week. On the one hand, I believe to my very core, and I think most of us agree, that the war Israel is fighting is a just war. And as casualties mount for soldiers and among residents of Gaza we are forced to struggle with the realities of war in a densely populated urban area, forced to struggle with its terrible toll. That does not negate the justness of the effort, but the fact that we struggle with the moral questions this war raises is what separates us from those who targeted civilians intentionally and with the worst sort of depravity on October 7th. We, like Rebecca, cry out to God, “If so, why do we exist?”

I know that many among us are looking for resources to help us wrestle with these matters. The Hartman Institute has been providing excellent content to help bring these issues into focus and make the struggle manageable. It is in that spirit that I share with you two of their recent podcasts: 1) The most recent episode of Yehuda Kurtzer’s Identity Crisis, “Fighting a Just War” and 2) The most recent episode of Yossi Klein HaLevi and Doniel Hartman’s For Heaven’s Sake “Israel at War – Shifa”. And of course, if you’d like to talk to me about any questions regarding Israel, Anti Semitism, or anything else haunting us in these difficult days, I am always just an email or call away.

Or come and see me this Shabbat – it is a quiet Shabbat this week, the first without a bar or bat mitzvah in weeks. So, come and join us to be together and pray and process and fress as the beloved community that we are. We can all use it these days.

See you in shul,

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