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Dvar Torah - Vayishlach

On 23 October, Ohad Munder marked his ninth birthday in Gaza, in captivity. Three days later, he was finally released by Hamas. After he gained his freedom, he told the story of his birthday. While in the tunnels under Gaza, another boy he didn't know came up to him and told him, on 23 October: "Happy Birthday!" Ohad asked how the boy knew. The boy explained to him that the terrorist who was holding him was watching Israeli TV. He had seen on the TV that the player from the soccer team HaPoel Be'er Sheva, Ohad's favourite team, had wished him a happy birthday, so the boy knew it was today. Ohad started to cry, but he said afterwards that the birthday wishes from the soccer team helped give him the fortitude to survive his ordeal.

Since 7 October, we have witnessed the most extraordinary outpouring of love and affection from Jews worldwide for other Jews. The spirit of unity has suffused our people in a way we haven't seen in a long time. Famously, if one Jew were stranded on a desert island, he would build two Shules, so that he could have one he wouldn't go to. That has not been our reality. Instead, everyone cares, and everyone is trying to help, especially when it comes to the hostages. The spirit of caring and concern for others has helped us see through difficulties in the past, and today, it grants us strength to continue on our journey.

As Ya'akov returns to his father's house this week, the Torah tells us that Dvora, Rivka's wetnurse, passes away. He buries her under a tree, which he calls "the Tree of Wailing", for the tears shed there. Many ask what this short vignette contributes to our understanding of the story. We have never heard of Dvora, nor will we again. We know very little about her other than her profession. We know almost nothing about her place in Ya'akov's household or how close he felt to her.

However, Ramban explains that we know that Dvora was Rivka's wet nurse and that she followed Rivka from Charan to the Land of Israel. Her devotion to her mistress was of little historical importance, yet it mattered deeply to Rivka's family. It was so important that when she returned to Charan and then journeyed to the Land of Israel with Ya'akov, she became an integral part of the household, and all keenly felt her death. Her kindness and care for her charges made her beloved to Ya'akov and his family. Her small acts of kindness and support made a big difference for this strange and lonely family who journeyed through life so different from those around them.

Sometimes, just caring about someone and telling them so is enough. The players of Hapoel Be'er Sheva could not have known that Ohad Munder would even know about their birthday wishes. Still, they felt the need to show support, and their support was keenly felt. Dvora loved the family she looked after, and her unceasing support made her almost one of them. Outside of Israel, there is little we can do to help in this situation. However, there is one thing that can help a great deal. We can prominently, vocally, and regularly show our support. The examples of Ohad and Ya'akov show us what a difference that makes.

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