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Terror & More Terror and a Jewish Response

Friday, 20 November, 2015 - 4:00 pm

Terror & More Terror and a Jewish Response 

ezra-schwartz.jpgFor several days now we have been inundated with Terror, Terror and more Terror. Social Media is full of people’s comments and thoughts about the terror and its consequences and regular mass media seems to unfortunately have no shortage of tragic terror related stories to report on.

From the deadly and horrific attacks in Paris, France where 130 innocent people were gunned down and killed last Friday night, to the Russian Passenger jet that was blown up, and to Mali today where dozens more were killed in an attack on a hotel, the terrorism seems to have no borders and limitations.  If anything it would seem like this evil ideology is inspiring more and more evil almost across the globe and they are succeeding at spreading fear and terror in millions of people.

Israel which has experienced terror for years has been reeling from multiple terrible attacks this week including a father and son killed days before they celebrated the wedding of their daughter, two people stabbed to death in a synagogue while praying in Tel Aviv (including a father of five young children) and three others gunned down just yesterday including 18 year old Erez Schwartz of Sharon, Massachusetts. The victims in Israel this week had done only one thing wrong to be deserving of this terror, they were Jewish.

It is all immensely disturbing and distressing and there are so many elements of frustration and disgust at this vicious terrorism, the terrible civil wars in Syria and Iraq, the endless stream of refugees who are desperate for a place to run, the politicians who jump on the bandwagon to push their agendas, the finger pointing to Israel as the blame for all world terror, and the lack of moral clarity when rationalizing or justifying some terror especially when it relates to Jews.

An Old Rooted Hate with a Modern Day Twist

In last week’s and this week’s Torah portion we read about two haters of Jews who represent movements that have sought to destroy the Jewish people that have spanned our long history.  In this week’s portion we read about Laban who sought to destroy Jacob and his entire family, but at least here Jacob knew who he was dealing with. In last week’s portion we read about Esau, who on the one hand was committed to the destruction of Jacob and his family but on the other hand presented himself to his father as this righteous individual who was acting only based on the most moral principles and values.

In history it has been no different, there have been those that don’t pretend about their agenda and openly state their goal of destroying the Jews, then there are those who speak in the name of human rights and morality like BDS and some of our not such good friends in Europe, whose talk and condemnation is really a thin veneer for their often deep rooted hate against the Jewish people.  Then luckily there are the many good people in this planet who help balance and counteract the evil in this world and thank G-d America is blessed with an abundance of such people.

Dealing with the Terror

Judaism doesn’t mince words when it comes to those who are actively seeking to kill you, resounding force is the way to go and one should not hesitate in defending oneself. While we always aim and strive to be a very merciful people who care not just about ourselves but also about humanity at large, there is a time when misplaced mercy is counterproductive for everyone.

Yet in addition the physical fight of terror, a more critical component is the spiritual dynamic.  Terror and terrorists want us to just think, talk and be in fear from the terror that they represent, and they want us to become so consumed with those thoughts that we can’t focus on who we are and what we need to do. Beating the terrorists is also about maintaining our spiritual identity and values even in the face of such evil. If we can somehow achieve an even deeper spiritual resolve about bettering our relationship with G-d and with the world around us, ultimately, it is this that will empower us with the moral willpower to withstand the assault on humanity. It is this that will enable us to fight back the evil with increasing light and to continue to grow and expand the good values and ideals that we stand for and seek to live by.

A lesson from Jacob

The Midrash on this week’s Torah Portion asks a question, “what got Jacob and his family through the 20 years of hardship, extortion and working for a man who wanted nothing less than to see you dead?”. The Midrash then goes on to state that Jacob used to read the equivalent of fifteen Psalms and pray to G-d on a consistent basis.  Chassidic thought explains that it wasn’t just some random prayer, rather Jacob used the moments that he had a few minutes to think and meditate, to say thank you to G-d for his blessings, to continue to ask G-d for his help and protection, and to arouse within himself the character traits of love, fear and mercy.  Jacob knew that the fight against evil would not be won just by responding to terror and to being ready to fight back at any different time, he knew that his spiritual core and wholeness needed to stay focused on why he was here to begin with, he needed to shine and serve as an inspiration to his dear family and loved ones, and he needed to make sure that no matter the terror and evil he was going to face, nothing was going to ever make him give up and surrender to the evil.

My friends, it has been a very painful and challenging week, the scope of the tragedy is still sinking in, and some like our own Erez Schwartz of Massachusetts have yet to be brought to their final rest (the funeral for Erez is on Sunday at 12pm in Canton). Yet as Jews we must fight back not just by supporting intelligence and military tactics and responding in the political and media sphere. Instead evil must be beaten by outshining it with good, terror must be replaced by abundant kindness, and we must make sure that our spiritual core and the values that are so dear and important to us as Jews, not only are not weakened but instead our strengthened as a result.

One need not look much further than the bride who had to cancel her wedding in Israel this week since her father and brother were killed, and has now rescheduled the wedding for this Tuesday in a massive convention center and has invited the whole of Israel to come and celebrate with her. This is the Jewish spirit of fighting back and this must be our resolve.

Let us make sure that this Shabbat and next few days are a time of increased Mitzvos, increased charity, increased acts of goodness and kindness. If we each take on just one more Mitzvah for the next week or two the world will already be a brighter place and what better way to pay tribute to the innocent victims of the evil terror.

Candle Lighting in Sudbury today is at 4:02pm and it is an auspicious time to pray for peace.

Shabbat Shalom and a Good Shabbos

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