Rabbi Nanus's Shabbat Message - May 10, 2024

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Rabbi Nanus's Shabbat Message - May 10, 2024

Of all the days, weeks, and months since October 7, perhaps this week is one of the most difficult, painful, and challenging. 

Last Monday was Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Memorial Day, when we not only remembered but also grieved for the murders and destruction of our six million brothers and sisters, with the additional painful realization that most of our treasured Holocaust survivors have now passed away. 

In other years, we comforted ourselves with the naïve belief that the horrific cataclysm that wiped out 1 out of every 3 Jews in the world would never be repeated. “Never again,” we told ourselves. This cannot possibly happen ever again. 85 years later, the impossible suddenly seems possible.

This Monday is Yom HaZikaron – the Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel, which breaks our hearts as we contemplate the loss of the flowers of Israeli youth. In the past 7 months, in addition to the 1200 Israeli men, women, and children slaughtered on October 7, over 1400 Israeli soldiers (mainly between the ages of 18 and 22) have been killed, and 3000 have been severely wounded. Thousands more have PTSD and the mystery of the fates of our hostages remains a gaping wound in all our hearts.

This Tuesday is Yom Ha’Atzama’ut – Israel Independence Day. We are supposed to celebrate, dance, sing, eat, drink, and rejoice but how can we with the shadow of this terrible war and worldwide antisemitism hanging over our heads? Our college students are harassed, reviled, and attacked for simply believing that Israel has the right to exist. 

And at the same time, tomorrow – smack in the middle of all these observances – is Shabbat. And this Shabbat’s Torah portion just happens to be Parshat Kedoshim, where we find one of the most famous and meaningful quotes in the entire Bible: V’ahavta L’rayecha Camocha. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

When I discovered this, I thought: Wow. What timing. What synchronicity. Is this a message? Is this a sign? Is this a teaching that we really need to pay attention to? Because it seems that in the midst of all this turmoil, the Torah is telling us to look at others and see our common humanity, to see each other’s similarities and not just our differences. To understand that unless we acknowledge each other’s pain and suffering, peace and acceptance cannot prevail.

The Jews are suffering. And the people of Gaza are suffering. And the Torah seems to be saying that until we both recognize each other’s value and worth, we are doomed to this continuous cycle of violence and hatred. Love your neighbor as yourself because your neighbor is yourself.

If this sounds radical and impossible, I want to share excerpts from a collection of poetry and artwork by Israeli and Arab children in 1975 about their hopes and dreams. 

It was after the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, after the Yom Kippur War, and after the Entebbe kidnapping that the book, My Shalom, My Peace was published. This book was a huge sensation because even though antagonism, hatred, anger, and despair were high on both sides, the children offered a different vision of the future.

"Muhammed and Me"
by Tamar Sharon, age 9 and a half

When Peace will come to be,
Down the pathways we will run, 
Among the grass in the orchard.
Muhammed and me.

When Peace will come,
I’ll give my hand to Muhammed,
To the Jordan we will go.
Together sing and hum.

When Peace will be on every side,
Arm in arm shall we go.
The two of us hiking all over –
And up to Jerusalem, we will take a ride.
When Peace will come and fighting ends.
We shall walk then, holding hands,
As far as Gilead –
Two happy friends.

"When Will it Come, The Day"
By Mahmud Abu Radj, age 12

When will peace take over?
When will it come, the day?
When with armies and bombs will they do away
When all this hostility ceases.

A day on which battleships
Will become palaces of leisure and fun
Floating on the seas.

A day on which the steel of guns
Will be melted into pleasure cars;
A day on which generals will begin to raise flowers.

When peace
Will include all the people of these neighboring lands.
When Ishmael and Israel
Will go hand in hand.
And when every Jew –
The Arab’s brother will be.
When will it come, the day?

This is what we still ask for. This is what we still pray for. This is what we must never stop working for.

Shabbat Shalom,