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Israel at War

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

Israel at War

Simchat Torah 2023

Rabbi Bonnie Koppell

It was just last night, in the before time, that Alan Zeichick and I were chatting before our joyous Shabbat and Simchat Torah celebration. He commented that Simchat Torah is his favorite holiday because it is “pure joy.” I loved and resonated with that thought.

This morning we awakened to images of devastation and destruction and Reserve soldiers packing their bags and heading to the battlefront. On this holy day, when they should have been dancing with the Torah.

The Torah concludes with the word “Yisrael.”

187 chapters

5,852 verses

All leading to one place- Yisrael, the Jewish homeland.

This morning Cantor Wolman, Rabbi Segal, and I reflected on whether or not we should include Hallel in our festival service. Hallel- Hallelujah- those psalms that express our joy and give thanks to God.

Psalm 115- The dead cannot praise you- how we pray for the miracle of a cessation to battle and no more killed.

Psalm 118- Min ha-meitzar karati- yes, we cry to God from the depths

All the nations surrounded us. God- help me.

God help us and the people of Israel.

We turn to Bereshit- God created the world, which was in a state of tohu va’vohu, it was in chaos.

Our world is once again, or maybe still, in chaos. And God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.” Today in Israel, yes, there is light. But it is not “or panecha,” the light of God’s face, it is the light of fire and destruction. And God saw the light and it was good. We pray for the restoration of the light that IS good- the light of wisdom and joy and peace.

The Torah ends with the word Yisrael- the final letter is lamed. The Torah begins with the word “Bereshit,” beginning with a bet. Lev- heart. Today, indeed, our hearts are in Israel.

The midrash suggests that there are 603,550 letters in the Torah that we celebrate today. One for each and every Jew. Each and every one of us, standing together to receive God’s word at Sinai.

The Torah concludes with the word, “Yisrael,” Israel. The phrase used is “l-eynei kol Yisrael,” in the eyes of all of Israel. The pain and suffering in Israel at this moment is, indeed, happening in the face of all of our eyes.

In Psalm 29, one of our Kabbalat Shabbat psalms, we read the words, “Adonai oz l’amo yiten- Adonai yivarech et amo b’shalom.” God will give us strength, God will bless us peace. We understand that peace must come from a position of strength. We pray, now, for the strength of the people of Israel.

In Deuteronomy chapter 20, we read of the priest who serves the people in time of war. The chaplain, if you will. Commentators note that the office of the Kohen Gadol, the high priest, is hereditary. Religious leaders are an ongoing need. The kohen who supports the people in battle is appointed for each conflict individually. There is always hope that this battle will be the last one, and there will be no need for religious leaders to accompany troops in to battle.

Passover is another one of the 3 festivals, the shalosh regalim. At our seder we are reminded that “in every generation that up to destroy us.” And God protects and saves us. We pray to God, we pray for the IDF, the Israel Defense Forces, and we pray for the people of Israel- may they be blessed with strength, courage, and success in battle.

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