June 16, 2024
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June 16, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

IDF soldiers in combat.
(Wikimedia Commons via the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

It is hard to fall asleep at night. It is even harder to wake up in the morning. There is no escape right now from the fear, anxiety and pain that surrounds us. No sweet dreams, no bright new sunny day.

In the 12 years since we have made aliyah, we have experienced a fair share of difficult moments. But I have never felt my internal system overwhelmed in the way I feel now. In general, I like to feel strong. I crave balance and try to breathe deeply, lean in, recalibrate and embrace living with tension. But this isn’t tension.

This is war.

It is the kind of stuff we foolishly wanted to believe belonged to past generations. Pogroms, full- scale invasions on our own soil, hundreds of civilians murdered, tens held hostage for hours, captives of all ages dragged across a border, an entire army taken by surprise.

Something already felt off early Shabbat morning when, starting from 6:30 a.m., the house was shaking every few minutes. We knew the kids were sleeping and that no one was moving any heavy furniture upstairs.

Then, around 8 a.m., someone interrupted the minyan in the middle of Shema to say that there were sirens in the south and we should be prepared to enter the safe rooms. The hakafot were moved to the basement where the social hall is fortified, a siren rang out in the middle of kiddush, children were crying, reserves began to be called up. Men in uniform came to hug their wives/parents before they drove out in cars from the usually closed yishuv gates. The rabbi announced that we are at war; chapters of Psalms were recited. We returned home, streets were eerily quiet and empty of kids all afternoon. And then … we waited. Wanting to know more yet simultaneously dreading what we would find out.

Even the worst of the rumors we had heard were not enough to prepare us.

When you “zoom out” and try to get a handle on the situation, it is just too much to wrap your head around. The losses are too great, the devastation so vast, the cruelty and barbarism unimaginable, the anguish of so many people too paralyzing. It is hard to breathe and remain hopeful.

But it is the “zoom in” that takes it all from the screen to real life and makes my heart break open and the tears flow over.

The family, friends and neighbors who have children (many of them have more than one) in combat on the front lines; the multiple couples who have had to push off their weddings scheduled for this week; the young mothers on their own with their babies; the picture of a chayal in uniform video chatting with his toddler; the rush on food in the supermarkets; conversations with overseas students who are so scared and so far from their parents; my husband’s description of frail ER patients limping from beds during sirens; the elderly people who are alone and confused … and the awful, never-ending stream of announcements of names of victims in a small country where everyone knows and is related to someone.

And then there are the moments that catch me completely off guard. Sunday night was one of those.

There were loud gun shots that sounded way too close for comfort. Then talk on WhatsApp groups of a terrorist infiltration and it was unclear into which yishuv. We weren’t going to take a chance. Long before reading about the horrors and carnage of this past Shabbat morning in the small kibbutzim and moshavim on the Gaza border, this has always been a big fear. Too many terrible stories from the Second Intifada etched into my mind.

We went into the safe room. The seven of us and my parents. My heart was racing, but I was also overtaken by a strange, unexpected calm. It took me a few seconds to identify what I was feeling. But then I knew. I told my family that whatever happens, I just want to say that I think we had a good life and that we tried our best to be good people and ‘עובדי ה (servants of God). I wasn’t sure how they would react but was surprised to find that I had only said out loud what everyone was thinking and feeling.

Sometimes there are eye-opening moments that shift your perspective.

We know how this will ultimately all end in the long arc of history. We don’t know how long it will take and what losses we will suffer in the process. But what we already know now is that Am Yisrael, our special nation, is filled with good people who are trying their best. In that we can find some measure of strength and comfort and a place to direct our stress and tension.

So, if nothing else, let’s keep trying our best and maybe we will discover that we can do even better.

 

Let’s:

Hug our spouses tighter;

Speak nicer to our children and parents;

Extend ourselves more to people in need;

Pray a little louder;

Reach deeper into our pockets;

Make amends with those we have hurt;

Strengthen our beliefs;

Grasp onto bits of hope;

Improve our weaknesses;

Stretch ourselves further;

Widen our connections;

Concentrate on what we have;

Live fully and intentionally in the moment;

Savor each other;

Recommit to our values;

Speak out for Israel;

And become the best versions of ourselves.

 

And let’s do it all in the merit of a safe return for all of those who are fighting and those being held captive.

They are trying their best, and so will we.


Shayna Goldberg (née Lerner) teaches Israeli and American post-high school students and serves as mashgicha ruchanit in the Stella K. Abraham Beit Midrash for Women in Migdal Oz, an affiliate of Yeshivat Har Etzion. She is a yoetzet halacha, a contributing editor for Deracheha: Womenandmitzvot.org and the author of the book: “What Do You Really Want? Trust and Fear in Decision Making at Life’s Crossroads and in Everyday Living” (Maggid, 2021). Prior to making aliyah in 2011, she worked as a yoetzet halacha for several New Jersey synagogues and taught at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School in Teaneck. She lives in Alon Shevut with her husband Judah and their five children.

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