“What have you done?! Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground!” These are the words that God declares when Cain kills his brother Abel. God’s deep despair and pain call out to us today, just as in this week’s Torah portion, Bereshit.
Today, the Jewish people are crying out in unimaginable pain. Many of our non-Jewish friends and colleagues do not seem to understand that being Jewish is more than being a part of a religion or a belief system. We are a family. Israelis are our brothers and sisters. What happens to them, happens to us. We have spent thousands of years ingraining it into our psyche. “We were slaves in Egypt.” “Six million murdered in the Holocaust.” “Kol Israel Arevim Zeh Bazeh - All of Israel are responsible for one another.” We don’t need to personally know any of the babies, children, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, cousins, grandmothers, grandfathers, friends, or partners who were slaughtered or kidnapped on Saturday, October 7 to feel as though we lost members of our own family. We are all Jews. We have a collective heart, a collective soul. We are all crying out with the exact words God uses when Cain kills Abel - WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!
But a Jew’s feeling of helplessness is short-lived. We have not survived this long, through this many tragedies and countless attempts at annihilation, by sitting in our despair for too long. This week has been no exception. Israelis did not hesitate to put on their uniforms. A man who narrowly escaped the music festival in the desert drove himself in his windowless, bullet-hole-covered car to report to duty to defend his country and his people. The stories of heroism and bravery are countless.
Here in Los Angeles, we also responded. Our Wilshire Boulevard Temple community members have become inspirational leaders immediately following Saturday’s devastation. Within 48 hours of the tragedy in Israel, Brad and Amy Conroy hosted close to 250 people at their home to raise money for Brothers for Life, an organization dedicated to supporting injured Israeli soldiers. Jaime and Andrew Schwartzberg, the Karen and Russell Goldsmith Family Charitable Trust, and hundreds of members of our community have donated amounts big and small to send ambulances to Israel through Magen David Adom. The Goldhirsh-Yellin Foundation is providing a $1 Million matching grant for the Los Angeles Jewish Federation’s campaign to support Israel’s most urgent needs. Our member, Erika Glazer, has purchased 12 fully equipped ambulances to send to Israel. Families have dropped off supplies at homes in order for them to be expedited to Israel on charter planes. Nadav Eylon, a congregant and the West Coast Regional Director of The Jewish Agency, has been working around the clock to support Israelis living on American soil and raising money for the victims of terror. Our Brawerman students are making cards for Israeli soldiers and recording themselves reading stories for Israeli children. These are just some of the many ways in which members of our very own community are stepping up to care for our family in Israel.
There is much sadness, fear, shock, anger, and heartbreak. It is impossible to see the images on the news, or hear from family and friends, and not be filled with emotion. But we can also find light and inspiration in the ways we have come together. We should be proud of this community and its swift and significant response to this unfathomable crisis.
It is from this week’s Torah portion that we learn the importance of being our brother’s keeper. In the coming weeks, as we continue to come to terms with the impact of this terrorist attack, we must remain strong. And so, I leave you with a text message I received from Nadav Eylon last night. I hope it inspires you as it has me:
We will win this!
We can't turn back time. What happened, happened.
We will continue to hear the bad news, we will see more pictures of our loved ones, and we will cry.
That is a fact.
But we can't stop hoping.
We do not have the privilege to give up Joel!
We have no other place but Israel!
Look around you, look at all the good, all the love that is being shared!
Look at the thousands of people from all over the world, Jews and non Jews, Look at it!
Look at the unity:
That is the word in Hebrew:
א - that is how it all begins
אח - a brother
אחד- we are all one
אחדות - unite
מא ועד ת
From Alef and until Tav
It means from the first until the last. All of us!
Joel we will win this!
We already are!
The people are united, the enemy have lost already since it was trying to tear us apart, but it did exactly the opposite!
Those Kibbutzim will be rebuilt.
The community will rebuild itself.
Children's laughter will once again be heard on the huge lawns of Be’eri and Kfar Aza!
They do not know who they are messing with Joel.
We will win this, we will triumph, we will survive and we will build new life, twice as large, twice as strong!
Am Israel Chai,
Rabbi Joel Nickerson