9 months ago • Oct 9, 2023

Holding This Impossible Moment

Rabbi Sharon Brous

Many of us are struggling to hold the weight of Hamas’s coordinated terror attacks on Israel over the weekend. The scope of the atrocities is unimaginable: nearly 1000 Israelis massacred—260 of whom were dancing at an all-night music festival. 130 people kidnapped and brought over the border into Gaza, including—unthinkably—entire families, children, savtas (grandmas), and even Holocaust survivors. Saturday—both shabbat and a Jewish holiday—marked the greatest Jewish death toll on a single day since the Holocaust. The videos and testimonies are soul crushing… and we are only hearing the first hints of what actually unfolded.The ripples of these attacks extend to every single Israeli, and to every Jewish person in the diaspora, in concentric circles of anguish and heartache.Adding to our pain and isolation in this nightmarish time—as so many of us await word from our loved ones—is the failure of so many people of conscience to condemn these horrific attacks. Some have even celebrated the assaults, in the name of human rights. But kidnapping, abusing and disappearing civilians, targeting civilians for murder—these are not the way of a liberation movement. These are crimes against humanity.The most natural biological and spiritual instinct is to identify with one another’s suffering. To look at these terrible crimes and shrug, or worse—to blame—not only hurts the victims, it hurts us all. When we close our hearts to one another’s anguish, we create a moral vacuum that only violent extremism can fill.What I am asking is for us to dare to hold the humanity, the heartache, and the need for security of the Jewish people while also holding the humanity, the dignity, the need for justice of the Palestinian people. For too long, these two have been set up as a false binary. In fact, the only liberation will be a shared liberation. The only justice is a justice for all.

What can we do now? First, I invite you to support the work of:

– The New Israel Fund, engaging in critical emergency efforts to meet the moment, providing basic services, including mental health and trauma counseling for those left most vulnerable from these attacks, and preventing flare ups of inter-communal violence in mixed cities by supporting the social infrastructure.

– United Hatzalah, which offers emergency medical treatment across the country.

– And Zion, one of many local community efforts to get resources directly into the hands of those in most dire need, including clothing, food and diapers for those who fled the kibbutzim at the border that were attacked.

Second, we can gather, again and again in this time of heartache. In the Talmud we learn that in times of sorrow, even when our instinct is to retreat from one another, the most humanizing thing we can do is step closer to each other’s pain.We will gather as an IKAR community tomorrow evening, Tuesday, October 10 for singing, prayers and reflection—at 6:15pm on the rooftop at Shalhevet (910 S. Fairfax Ave). Please bring with you the names of loved ones who have died, who are missing, or for whom you hold worry, so that we can collectively lift them up, with love. We are also gathering virtually every morning at 8am PT for minyan, which has been a powerful way to connect in this time of so much uncertainty. And I invite you to offer a Prayer for the Captives, and to recite Psalm 130 on your own.And lastly, please let us be tender with ourselves and each other. Take a break from social media when it becomes too much. Instead, reach out to one another to check-in. Call your family and friends in Israel and let them know you stand with them in sorrow and solidarity. Call a Palestinian friend and share your hope for a better future. We can’t take each other’s pain away, but we can make sure none of us navigates the pain alone. Let us hold each other with love and grace—R’ Sharon Brous