April 15, 2024
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Israel in Crisis: Making Sure We Really Care

During the month of Av, the three-week mourning period that we began observing this week is intensified, cul­minating in our national day of mourning: Ti­sha B’Av. Some years, however, it seems that Av comes early. With the tragic murders of the three yeshiva boys and war in Israel, the Jew­ish people have already experienced feelings of sadness and destruction.

At the Shabbos table, my daughter told us she found it challenging to sincerely relate and feel the pain for those suffering in Israel. She’s right. It’s not easy as we sit here, thousands of miles away in the midst of our summer, to tru­ly empathize with our brothers and sisters on the frontlines. But we have to try, especially if we want our children to care about serious and important issues.

Chazal tell us (Sotah 11a) that Pharaoh took counsel of three advisors regarding the popu­lation growth of the Jewish people in Egypt: Ba­laam advised him to kill all Jewish-born males by throwing them into the Nile, Iyov (Job) re­mained silent, and Yisro ran away. The Gemara tells us that corresponding to their responses to Pharaoh, Balaam was eventually killed, Iyov suffered great afflictions, and Yisro merited de­scendants who would sit on the Great Sanhe­drin. Why was Iyov punished so harshly for his silence? The commentators explain simply: When someone feels pain, they cry out. Iyov’s silence indicated that he wasn’t bothered by Balaam’s plot to kill thousands of Jewish ba­bies. When something truly bothers us, we re­act—loudly.

Our first response to the current situa­tion has to be to ensure that we as educa­tors and parents make it clear that the wel­fare of fellow Jews is something genuinely close to our hearts. We have to cry out in some way; otherwise in a sense we too are guilty of indifference. When children see that something truly matters in the eyes of adults they look up to, inherently they un­derstand that issue should be important to them as well. This is the building block of trying to reach kids in a way that encourag­es a sense of responsibility.

We live in an era that by definition is dis­tracted. Smart phones have provided us with more and instant information, while dumb­ing down the average attention span needed for genuine learning. This means that getting through to kids is more challenging than ever. One strategy that can be very effective is to cre­ate concrete and tangible ways for kids to re­late to the issues that concern us. It’s very dif­ficult to care about something abstract; it has to be real.

An easy way this can be done is by shar­ing relevant videos, news, and stories about the situation in Israel. Try to personalize the crisis by meeting or talking to people who have been there. If your kids have been to Israel, remind them of the places they saw and describe specifically what is happening there. If they haven’t been to Israel, and it’s possible, plan your next big vacation there. Finally, look for opportunities through which your family can actively do some­thing that aids or promotes Jews in need. When kids feel they can make a difference, the cause becomes something that is a part of their lives, not just a distant concern.

Another idea that can help elicit empathy and care for others is actually based on our practice of fasting. One of the things that we accomplish by not eating or drinking is to give up a little bit of our normal comforts so that we can look outside of ourselves and focus on im­portant things. Perhaps each individual can choose a luxury in their life to voluntarily ab­stain from. This can be for a week, a day, or an hour, the point being to empathize during that time with others who are in distress.

In 1970, a TWA flight to Israel was hi­jacked, and the passengers, some of them very prominent Jewish leaders, were held hostage by terrorists. After lengthy negoti­ations, some of the hostages were released and welcomed home with great fanfare. While others were celebrating, Rav Moshe Feinstein’s response was somewhat mut­ed. When asked why he wasn’t celebrating with everyone else, Rav Moshe responded that he felt it was inappropriate for him to be joyous while other Jews were still in grave danger.

Hopefully we can all contribute in some way to alleviating the current crisis, and I pray that we merit to see Shalom for all of Israel.

Rabbi Avraham Shulman MS, LAC is a Rebbe and Guid­ance Counselor at MTA. He is also an Associate Men­tal Health Counselor at EK Counseling in Teaneck. He can be reached at [email protected] or 973-271- 3753.

By Rabbi Avraham Shulman MS, LAC

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