Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Breaking the Chains of Captivity in Gaza - Israel Blog

I spent this past weekend in St. Louis, MO where I attended Songleader Bootcamp (SLBC) – a yearly celebration of Jewish music, spirituality, and leadership. This is the 5th year that I have been honored to serve as a Core Educator at SLBC. In that role, I taught classes, helped to lead services, shared my music, and helped to create a sacred community.

This year’s SLBC was filled with many memorable experiences that I look forward to sharing with you in the near future.  As always, the many sessions of prayer, singing, and learning were inspiring and fulfilling.  We were joined by a cadre of national thought leaders, musicians, artists, and clergy. For the past several years, much of our learning was facilitated by Rabbi David Ingber – the founder and visionary of a synagogue named Romemu in New York.  Rabbi Ingber is a remarkable scholar and someone who has become a dear friend.

At one of his sessions, Rabbi Ingber asked us to think about one particular section of the service  Birchot HaShachar – the morning prayers. These daily blessings thank God for things that we all too often take for granted. Here at Temple, at our weekly Shabbat morning service, it has become our tradition to recite them and then ask people to share their own “blessings”. 

This is always a powerful moment in the service. The members of our sacred community share how the past week brought them joy and fulfillment:    

  • A wedding
  • The birth of a child or grandchild
  • Recovery from illness
  • A new job
  • And so on…

Sometimes in our rush to share our own blessings, we don’t take the time to probe the deep wisdom of our traditional prayers. Rabbi Ingber taught that we really can’t understand the power of these prayers until we experience them directly. For example, when we say:  “Praised are You, Adonai our God, who opens the eyes of the blind,” unless we have lost and regained our eyesight, we cannot possibly comprehend the deep meaning of the miracle of sight. Similarly, when we pray “Blessed are You, Adonai our God, who heals the sick,” the words gain great power when we – or someone we love – has risen from the sickbed.

We then focused on the blessing: “Praised are You, Adonai our God, who frees the captives.”

Until recently, these words did not have all that much impact. The concept of captivity was merely a metaphor – or a historical reminder of the suffering of our people in the past. After the horror of October 7th, however, this prayer has taken on a whole new meaning and become a hauntingly powerful reminder of the fact that there are still men, women, and children – babies – who are languishing in horrific conditions in Gaza – imprisoned by terrorists who have shown their brutality by murdering, raping, and plundering the homes of innocents whose only crime was the fact that they lived in the State of Israel.

Those who languish in the terror of captivity in Gaza remind us daily that that their fear, helplessness and terror continue to fester like wounds that have anguished the entire State of Israel – along with all of us who grieve with them.

As we watch the horrors of war play out in the streets of Gaza, we must never lose sight of the fact that the IDF is fighting against an enemy whose modus operandi is the sacrifice of innocent lives - Palestinian and Jewish alike – in order to accomplish their goal of eradicating the Jewish State. The devastation of innocents caught up in Hamas’ evil could easily have been prevented had Hamas not set the stage for its own destruction by creating the conditions and provoking Israel to perform the mitzvah of Matir Asurim, freeing the captives.

Let us pray for an end to this horrific war, for the captives to be returned to their families who wait in anguish, for the eradication of Hamas and the beginning of hopes for peace.


1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for adding the suffering of Palestinians. Last Friday as I watched the online service, I was struck by the fact that there were several prayers for Israel but non for the innocent and suffering Gazans. I questioned the Jewish morality that I take great pride in. Where is Solomon whern we need him so badly? Shabat Shalom.