As we approach the end of our second week of war with Hamas, we confront the menacing hydra of antisemitism. Even as Israel seeks to eliminate the most crucial head, Hamas, we see the impact of its smaller relatives daily. In America, Jews carry guns to Shule on Shabbat. In Berlin, a Synagogue was firebombed (thank G-d without casualties). Here, we find ourselves watching as incidents increase in frequency. How can we approach this reality, separately from what happens in Israel?
This week has a crucial message for us in these difficult times. The Torah explains that G-d chose to destroy the world because humanity had filled it with theft (in Hebrew, Hamas). However, one upstanding citizen who maintained moral clarity was saved. One person, Noach, was chosen as the progenitor of a reborn humanity because he showed genuine moral fibre and grit, uniquely in his generation. Noach's name derives from the Hebrew word "Nach", meaning rest or comfort. The Torah explains that he was given this name when he was born because people told him: "This one will comfort us from our actions and the sadness of their products." Noach was a person who brought comfort with him wherever he went. He made people happy. He was good and upstanding, but that was not enough. In addition, he exuded positivity wherever he went.
In difficult times, we are charged with following Noach's example. We, too, can make the world a better place. And, in our small ways, we have been. Whether it is reaching out and helping people here or sending donations to Israel, we do our best to help. However, in Israel today, the people show us the true meaning of the word: Noach. All around the country, people deliver food to each other, help with small tasks, cook for soldiers and bring them what they need, enlist in the army when not conscripted, drive ambulances as volunteers, help look after others' children, and a myriad of other small and big kindnesses. Israel is truly a "light unto the nations," a beautiful country filled with people who love, value, and help each other, whatever their differences. The only shame is that we required such straightened circumstances to rediscover this side of ourselves.