As I made my way towards the Old City of Jerusalem a stream of ambulances and police cars rushed by me, sirens blazing, down King David street. I knew something was up. I took in a deep breathe and exhaled: “Please, not again.”
Yesterday, the 10th of Tevet, marked the Hebrew date on which the Babylonians besieged the Jewish population in Jerusalem, a critical event on their way to destroying the 1st Temple over 2400 years ago.
In modern times it has been designated as “Yom Hakaddish Haklali,” the day on which Kaddish is recited for the holy martyrs of the Holocaust who left no survivors to say kaddish for them. This practice ensure that an unimaginable estimated 2,000,000 martyrs are not forgotten.
We also commemorates the death of Ezra the Scribe, who led the return of the Jews to Jerusalem from their Babylonian exile. Ezra also is known for enacting a number of visionary decrees, that are still in practice today, in order to save the Jewish people’s connection to Torah, which was in danger of being lost. The Talmud exalts Ezra’s leadership proclaiming:
“If the Torah had not been granted through Moses, it could have been granted to Israel through Ezra.” (Sanhedrin 21b)
I am visiting Israel this week on behalf of my school. My day yesterday in Jerusalem began and ended with prayers at the Kotel – our Holy Wall, a retaining wall of the Temple Mount that has survived over 2000 since the 2nd Temple. Always an awe-inspiring and humbling experience. A place where history and destiny meet. Where all walks of life are pulled in by its spiritually primed magnetic force.
It began and ended with visiting with some of our high school graduates studying in yeshivot and midrashot in Israel for the year from Montreal. I am continuously proud of their, and the thousands of others’, sincere motivation to learn Torah, their steadfast dedication to personal growth and unwavering commitment to deepening their Jewish heritage.
Sandwiched in between I made a pilgrimage to the grave of my beloved Rabbi Shmidman, zt”l, a gracious man OF Torah and OF Eretz Yisrael, a man OF truth and OF peace. He was a rarity in scholarship and of the sweetest of character. He is truly missed.
I was also caught in the collective horror after the local terrorist attack that has broken our hearts once again. Ad Matai – until when!
In the midst of this difficult day of mourning and tragedy, which was also filled with blossoming seeds of hope, I can’t help but connect the dots and reflect on the duality of how far we’ve come and yet how little has changed.
Our enemies come after us with all they have and are left with nothing. The Babylonians are gone, Nazi Germany is no more. The terroists have little to show for their own people and have contributed nothing to humanity in their efforts. Their existence, which became predicated on the destruction of others, has resulted in their own diminishmemt, if not disappearance. And we, albeit painfully, have come back stronger and stronger every time. Yes, the burden is all too often not shared equally, but we are ALL in this together.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved and we pray for a speedy recovery of the injured in today’s attack.
With God’s help, with a refined vision/mission-driven Jewish leadership, and with our undying hope in hand, we will continue to learn and spread the values of our Torah in our land and beyond. We will deepen our commitment to our heritage. And we will continue to grow and to prosper up to and including the days prophesized by our prophets:
So says the Almighty: The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore, you shall love truth and peace. (Zachariah 8:19)