By Rabbi Levi Greenberg
You all know what happened in Israel on Saturday, Oct. 7. Israel’s mortal enemies perpetrated a heinous and barbaric attack of sheer evil that shocked the world.
That day coincided with the joyous Jewish holiday of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, the conclusion of the High Holiday season. As we gathered in El Paso for the festival prayer services as the first reports were emerging, emotions were raw since everyone in our community was somehow directly impacted.
A teary-eyed West El Paso father of a “lone soldier” serving in the IDF participated despite his agonizing worry for his son’s safety. A local grandmother told me, shaking, that her grandson’s reserve unit was sent to the front lines. Many El Pasoans have family or friends there.
Since then, when asked how my family is faring in Israel, my gut response is that 1,200 of my brothers and sisters were brutally murdered, and over 150 of them were kidnapped by fiendish terrorists – as far as I know as I type this message.
I pray that G-d should avenge their blood, ensure the hostages are redeemed immediately, heal the wounded, strengthen Israel’s security forces to do their heroic and holy work and return home safely, and protect all my brothers and sisters in the Holy Land now and forever.
The Jewish festival of Simchat Torah is celebrated by concluding the annual Holy Bible reading cycle and immediately restarting from the beginning. As the massacre unfolded, every synagogue in Israel was scheduled to read the first chapter of Genesis, the story of creation.
Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, the 11th-century classic commentator of the Bible, known by the acronym Rashi, explained that the Bible begins with the story of creation because the day would come when people would accuse the Jewish nation of stealing the Holy Land from others.
Therefore, the Bible sets down the premise that G-d is the creator and master of the world. He alone chose to gift the Holy Land to the Jewish nation, and there is no need to apologize for being there.
It is clear to all that this is the same ongoing war against an ancient evil that has reared its ugly head numerous times throughout history with deadly consequences, and we are confident we will prevail. Although we may be physically distant from the battlefields, we are all called upon to participate in the spiritual battle against evil by doing more acts of goodness and kindness.
Ever since the news broke, neighbors, acquaintances, and strangers have tearfully approached me to express solidarity. It is truly heartwarming and encouraging, but may I suggest that in addition to expressing solidarity with your presence and your words, please stand in solidarity with us by participating in this universal battle against evil, specifically by intentionally seeking ways to do more acts of charity and kindness. Let’s saturate our environment with goodness by setting aside a giving box in our homes and offices to give money to charity routinely.
Our positive actions here in El Paso can influence the outcome of the war against evil raging in Israel. Because every act of kindness generates a powerful light that banishes much darkness and will certainly eradicate this despicable darkness we all abhor.
Maimonides declared: “One positive good deed, spoken word and even thought can tip the scales and bring salvation to the entire world.”
May this war be the last one anyone should ever fight, and may we merit the realization of the biblical prophecies of an era of eternal peace and tranquility for all.
Levi Greenberg is associate rabbi at Chabad of El Paso.