By Sivan Rahav-Meir

I was certain that the Shabbat program we had planned for the Jewish community in Warsaw would be canceled because of the war. “But why would it be canceled?” I was challenged by Rabbi Shalom and Dina Stambler, Chabad emissaries to this city.

“On the contrary, there were never more people who registered for such an event, if only to be together with other Jews.”

They were right. People who never came to a Jewish event suddenly arrived here and spent the entire Shabbat with us. Jews from Lodz, Bialystok, Katowice, Krakow, and, of course, Warsaw itself. Something deep inside has awakened as Jews everywhere want to be a part of our common cause and serve as ambassadors for Israel. They are fighting for the nation of Israel and for Judaism, and against Hamas and anti-Semitism.

Someone told me about contributions that have been made to the IDF, another about studying Hebrew for the first time. Someone mentioned organizing a large demonstration for Israel, and someone else talked about a personal demonstration of faith in affixing a mezuzah to his doorpost.

On Shabbat, I heard about two local businessmen who were bitter rivals and never spoke. But just this week they both suddenly appeared at the rabbi’s house and asked him what they could do together to help Israel.

A local Jewish physician summarized the meaning of all this as follows: “If Hamas thought they could diminish our unity, our desire to identify with Israel, or our wish to live as Jews, they need to know that all of these have only increased since October 7.”n

{IMG Sivan in Warsaw

“Shalom Sivan, Below are pictures of a synagogue at Kibbutz Be’eri. 130 residents of this kibbutz were murdered by Hamas and many of its buildings were burned to the ground. Yesterday and today mark 85 years since Kristallnacht (the night of broken glass) when 91 Jews were murdered in Germany—as their businesses and synagogues were vandalized or set on fire—in pogroms organized by the Nazis. To commemorate Kristallnacht, synagogues throughout the world are keeping their lights on. Rachel Fricker from Kibbutz Be’eri has made sure to keep her synagogue’s lights turned on as well. It’s a sign of the constant light her community will radiate as it rebuilds and flourishes like never before.”

Dahlia Yohanan

I tried to describe this feeling after every Zoom session with a Diaspora community that wanted “to connect with Israel” at this time. At each session, I heard about droves of Diaspora Jews showing up to the kinds of demonstrations and events they never would have attended previously. And now Ilan Muallem who works in the movie industry in New York has described this awakening in the clearest possible terms as follows:

“I have a confession. And I think it’s gonna be true for a lot of Jews out there, and it’s a big lesson for you Jew haters. So I suggest you listen, all you anti-Zionists.

“Growing up, my Jewish identity was a completely secondary part of my life. I never even thought about it really. You know my parents had told me stories about what they went through. My mom had to escape Iraq because she was a Jew, and my dad, sadly, most of his family was killed in the Holocaust. But I never personalized it. It was never something that was super, super real to me. And it was just stories of things that they went through.

“But then after October 7, seeing the way the world responded to the attack and the amount of Jew hatred that actually exists, kind of woke up my Jewish side, made me reconnect with it fully, and I think people don’t fully realize just how many Jews out there have reconnected with their Jewish identity now. You know we were disappearing. We were marrying non-Jews in exceptional numbers. Most of us don’t follow the religion. I mean, look at me, I’m covered in tats.

“And now so many of us are activated. You strengthen us when you attack us. We were disappearing so I have to say ‘thank you’ to everyone who has reminded all of us Jews what it actually means to be Jewish. Thank you for showing us the true face of anti-Semitism. And thank you for uniting us once again because I promise you, we’re stronger than ever now.”

Thank you, Ilan, and may we remain stronger than ever. n

Rabbi Yoni Lavi writes that this war caught us by surprise in creating a terrible reality: having to console the families of 1,400 terror victims. But how can we provide them with the consolation that they need?

“The first and most important thing we can do is to be by their sides. In the words of the psalmist: ‘I am with him in distress.’ Looking them straight in the eye with a firm handshake and a warm embrace reinforce their ability to cope and their power to maintain. No words are necessary since, in truth, it is doubtful that there is anything to say. When Aharon the Kohen lost two of his sons at the inauguration of the Mishkan, the Torah says: “And Aharon was silent.” Because there are moments when words are inadequate to express grief, and the one response that reflects our feelings more than any other is silence.

“Second, listen to their words in order to hear their pain, their memories, the story of their fallen loved one. As written in the book of Job: ‘Let me speak to be relieved.’ Listening to their story makes their burden easier to bear. At the same time, the halachah instructs that we must wait for the mourner to begin talking before we open our mouths to speak. We must hear where the mourner is at and meet him there.

“Don’t try to offer commentary on what happened or to be G-d’s spokesman. The ways of G-d are hidden. We cannot explain why someone was killed in an explosion while the friend beside him escaped unscathed. We believe that G-d watches over us and that nothing happens by chance. Yet we are not prophets and lack the ability to explain what happens to any particular individual.

“We need to remember that a human being is not just a body but, above all, a soul. So when a body is placed in the earth, the soul still lives as it goes to a better place. The one who fell has many merits since he died in the defense of us all. He is now in the Garden of Eden under the wings of the Shechinah and this recognition can give us strength, consolation, and solace.

“Offer actual assistance. Check and see if there is something you can do for the mourners. Cooking, organizing, watching the kids, financial aid.

“To conclude: It’s said that the most difficult day of the shivah (seven-day mourning period) is the eighth day. The world goes on spinning and those who lost loved ones are left with silent walls, mute memories, and stinging yearnings for the deceased. Therefore, do not forget the mourners the day after or the month after the shivah has passed.

“Experience teaches that life eventually wins out. Initially it seemed that with the death of our loved one, our lives ended too. But time is a great healer and the passing days allow us to return—ever so slowly—to life, to family, and to dreams about the future.”

May we all console—and be consoled. n

 

Sivan Rahav-Meir, married to Yedidya and a mother of five, lives in Jerusalem. She has been a journalist in the Israeli media from the age of six and has interviewed thousands of people on television, radio, and in print. Globes named her Israel’s most beloved journalist, Forbes listed her as one of the most influential women in Israel, and the Jerusalem Post ranked her among the 50 most influential Jewish people in the world.

Sivan lectures in Israel and abroad on Judaism, Israel, and new media. In recent years, she began writing The Daily Thought, a brief commentary on current events that is circulated in Jerusalem and translated into 17 languages for global distribution. This volunteer-run project provides spiritual uplift for Jews and non-Jews all over the world.

To receive Sivan Rahav-Meir’s content, search The Daily Thought.

 

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