Dear Lauren,

I live in America. I read about the war in Israel almost every day. I want to feel a part of it, but I’m going to camp and going shopping and meeting with friends and it doesn’t feel like anything is different. I want to feel Israel’s war struggle, but I don’t, and I feel really bad about that. Also, I want to do something for the war effort, but I’m far away in America and I’m not doing anything. What can I do?

Lauren Roth

Lauren Roth's Answer

First of all, give yourself kudos and credit for wanting to feel with your brothers and sisters in the Holy Land. Wanting to do the right thing counts as doing the right thing in Jewish philosophy. So you’re already on the right track. Celebrate that victory.

The Hasidic yeshivos of Viznitz, Sanz, Belz, and Ger in Israel all cancelled vacation this summer; their students believe that their learning Torah supports the Israeli soldiers and the war effort, so they will be learning Torah in the merit of all the soldiers over the next few weeks. Their approach is one you, too, can take, all the way over in America, across the world from Israel and its army. You, too, can minimize your fun – just a drop – and increase your acts of kindness and increase your prayers on behalf of Israel and the young men fighting the war.

I would encourage you to observe two moments of silence a day; one when you wake up, and one when you are about to go to sleep. During that minute, think on the soldiers. Pray on their behalf. Ask God to protect them as they battle evil for the sake of the safety of Israel and for the sake of the security of the entire free world.

Also, any time you do a good deed – and try to do many of them per day – think to yourself, “This is in the merit of the safety of the soldiers.”

Maybe on your way to meeting your friends, think about the soldiers for a moment and pray for their safe return to the ordinary world of meeting friends. Maybe in the mall, think about the soldiers for a moment and pray that they can return soon to the ordinary world of buying a sweater or purchasing a new pair of shoes.

Helping yourself stay aware of the young men fighting evil on our behalf, and spiritually supporting them, will make you a part of the war effort.

There are also more official means. An organization called “The Shmira Project” (in English, that means “The Protection Project”) pairs people who want to pray and do good deeds on behalf of a particular soldier with Hebrew names of actual soldiers. Then any good deed or prayer or Torah learning you do anytime helps spiritually protect a soldier in the field. You can sign up at http://shmiraproject.com/en-us/home.aspx.

It might help you to feel connected to the soldiers by choosing someone in your life who mirrors them – a 20-something-year old boy – and realize that anytime you think “Israeli soldier,” you really mean your Josh, or your Mike, your Max, your Isaac…. “The Israeli soldiers” are not a foreign enclave; they are the mirror of the young Jewish boys we know and love. They are someone’s son, someone’s father, someone’s brother, someone’s fiancé.

It’s also really important to realize that any good person who is suffering – whether it be a soldier fighting a war, a friend battling cancer, a family member going through a divorce, a neighbor losing a loved one – any good person who is suffering generally does not want other people to suffer, too. If I am having a difficult time in my life, the last thing I want is for other people to be having difficulties, too. Yes, if I’m going through a tough time, I want people to care about me. Yes, if I’m suffering, I don’t want people blithely and insensitively throwing their happiness in my face. BUT, if I am a good person, I really want my friends and neighbors and fellow Jews to be happy and trouble-free, even if I’m having a hard time.

Keeping a prayerful awareness of the soldiers and our brothers and sisters in Israel and what they’re going through as you go through your day would be ideal. Increasing the good deeds that you do on their behalf, sending “spiritual support” via your thoughts and intentions as you do the good deeds on their behalf would be wonderful. Stopping twice a day to think of Israel and the people there and to send up a prayer for them would be powerful.

I also think you could tell your friends about the ideas I’ve mentioned here. A part of your “meeting with friends” could be your helping them be aware of the situation in Israel, too. They might be staunch supporters of Israel and benefit from your mechanisms of connecting to the situation there. If they are detractors from Israel, you might actually feel more connected to the Israeli war effort when you hear them dissing it. It’s interesting how we humans work: if you’re not feeling as connected to the situation in Israel as you want to feel, and you encounter people who criticize Israel and its actions, you might actually feel more loyal and more connected to it!

If you also want to help in a political or monetary way, you can contact your local AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) chapter, or take a look at the AIPAC website (http://www.aipac.org/) to see how you can help. The Hasbara Fellowship is another great option (visit: http://www.hasbarafellowships.org/). Even as a teen you can help. 

A word about prayer, good deeds, and Torah learning: know that any of those endeavors, done on behalf of someone or something, will in and of themselves make you feel more connected to the object of your giving. Also, know that no prayer, no good deed, no dedicated learning goes to waste. Any good generated in the world, says Jewish philosophy, improves the world and dampens evil’s power.

Thank you for caring. Thank you for wanting to do the right thing.