Simchat Torah this year should have been a joyous occasion. Jews world-wide, whether in Australia, Israel, or elsewhere, were ready to have the year’s biggest party. Instead, we were
faced with the worst sort of news. Our brothers and sisters in Israel were
invaded by a brutal, evil enemy intent on killing as many innocents as possible.
Israel was caught unaware and woefully unprepared. What followed was the mas-
sacre that we all saw. At times like this, it is normal to feel extreme anger. We are angry at the monsters who perpetrated this terrible crime.
We feel betrayed by those in our government who failed to stop them. Much of that anger is righteous. However, the Torah advocates for a different approach in such times of crisis. Rav Soloveitchik wrote eloquently about the Torah’s approach to tragedyin Kol Dodi Dofek. There, he explained that our response to the tragedy of the Holocaust was, and had to be, not to ask why. There was no possible explanation for what occurred. Evil people motivated by hatred of the Jewish people tried to exterminate us. It was not an event we could explain rationally, and it would morally degrade the person who attempted to do so. Instead, Rav Soloveitchik taught, we ask: “What now?” The appropriate response to disaster and grief is not to ask why it happens but how to respond and extract the best outcome possible from a bad situation. The Jews, after the Holocaust, reacted to the tragedy and founded the State of Israel. That was our response. An exemplar of this approach is Avraham, our nation’s founder. One of his many challenges is directly analagous to our current situation. Lot and Avraham realised they could no longer live together as their respective shepherds were fighting over grazing land for the sheep. Rather than live in such conflict with family, they separated, and Lot descended to the Jordan Valley while Avraham remained in the mountains. Shortly afterwards, war came to Sdom, where Lot was living. The king of Sdom and four others rebelled against their overlord, Amraphel.
As punishment, he invaded their lands and took away many citizens, including Lot, as hostages. When Avraham heard about this event, he immediately sprang to action. He chased after the army, confronting and fighting them, and freed his relative. Avraham could have wondered what to do. He could have thought about how terrible the event was and how it was unjustified. Instead, he responded to save the lives of his family. We, too, are now called to react this way. Just as we heard the call down the centuries of “Lech Lecha” to build a country out of the ashes of our people in the land promised to our fathers, we must now act to minimise t he evil of this atrocity. Today, some 200 of Israel’s citizens, our brothers, have been abducted and are held against their will, sometimes in actual cages. It is upon us to do what we can to free them. Additionally, Israel fights for all of our security. Our astonishing success in this country, as in many others, is built on the existence of the State of Israel. Israel has guaranteed our security and material prosperity in a way unheard of in the long history of our people. As these words were being written, the army was in the throes of making plans to enter Gaza. They are fighting for Israeli security and to free the hostages, but they are also fighting for us. We can help. Giving as generously as possible can help bring the captives home and prevent something like this from occurring again. Israel is in need. It is upon us to heed the call of Avraham Avinu and be available for
our people in their time of trouble.