Israel under siege: What should we do?

Rabbi Fried,

What should we be doing and thinking during this terrible onslaught against Israel?

Mike S.

Dear Mike,

This has been a painful and difficult time for us all, especially on the coattails of the unprecedented disaster at Meron, following so many sad losses from COVID-19. Lately it just seems to never end.…

Seeing what our people are going through, the trauma to hundreds of thousands of our Israeli children, has been heartrending. Personally, this alarming escalation has been exceptionally emotional for us, knowing that our son, daughter-in-law and two little girls have been spending nights on mattresses down in the bomb shelter in their home in Tel Aviv. (Thankfully, the barrage of rockets hasn’t impacted our children in Jerusalem as sharply, as the murderers have been avoiding sending rockets there as not to hit their own people. They still need to be careful to stay in their neighborhoods, however, as the riots and lynchings are everywhere.)

We should not feel helpless, that there’s nothing we can do. 

We can and should contact our elected officials, asking that they stand with Israel and show their support during this precarious time which poses an existential challenge to our land and people. If they have already done so, thank them and let them know that their support is noticed and appreciated. 

As Jews we also can and must take spiritual action. Our attitude must not be that it’s, after all, “really only their problem” and not ours, as we enjoy our comfort and safety in America. The entire Jewish people is like one body, connected through our soul, and whatever happens to one Jew happens to us all.

I’ll never forget how, during the Lebanese War in 1982, my mentor the late R’ Shlomo Wolbe ob”m spoke to us in the yeshiva in Jerusalem as the IDF was battling in Lebanon. He exhorted us powerfully that we must not feel like the war is only “up there,” and it’s business as usual in the yeshiva. It must be war time in the yeshiva! The prayers must be different, beseeching the Al-mighty for the safety of our soldiers and their success in crushing our enemies. The learning must be different, elevated, for the victory and safety of the army needs our spiritual partnership of Torah and prayer. 

R Wolbe at the time cited the Talmudic passage that states that “when the Jewish people are in pain and under siege, one must not say ‘I’ll go to my home and eat and drink and peace is upon me,’ because to do so brings a curse upon him; rather, one should join the pain of the congregation.” The Talmud brings an example of this from Moses, who, during the time of the war against Amalek, while praying would only sit on a hard rock and not a comfortable chair, saying “How could I sit in comfort while my people are at war?” (Talmud, Taanis 11a)

This is a time when we should go out of our way to perform acts of kindness to our fellow Jews. This helps concretize the oneness of our people. The Talmud says that if we have the merit of truly proclaiming “Shema Yisrael…,” there’s a oneness within the Jewish people, and we will be victorious in our battles. (Talmud, Sotah 42a). 

Let’s look for extra words of kindness for our spouses, children, friends. Let’s pick up a phone and call someone who needs a little strengthening, some attention. Visit an elderly person who’s homebound or in a home. Let’s be extra careful not to utter any negative words about a fellow Jew or do anything which could cause divisiveness. 

Let us all turn our hearts Heavenward and beseech the Al-mighty to have mercy upon our brethren under siege, and may we merit to see an everlasting peace in our holy land. 

Leave a Reply