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It’s Not Business as Usual
Mom with a View

It’s Not Business as Usual

Do something daily to identify with the pain Israelis are going through.


There is a wonderful idea in the story of Noah that I always think of in times like this. When Noah and his family boarded the ark, the description is somewhat awkward. “Noah, with his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, went into the Ark… “(Genesis 7:7) It would have been more natural to say “Noah and his wife and his sons and their wives.” But we know that the Torah has a reason for everything. Noah was listed separately from his wife and his sons were listed separately from their wives to teach us an important lesson. The world was being destroyed. It was a terrible tragedy. This was not the time to indulge in the pleasure of marital intimacy. It would be the height of callousness to seek that kind of personal joy while the rest of the Almighty’s creation is being obliterated.

I once read a contemporary version of this attitude. When the news of the fate of the Jews of Europe during the Second World War began to trickle in to America, there were those who continued in an attitude of “business as usual.” But there were others who adopted a variation of the lesson in Noah. One of the prominent Rebbetzins of that time was not living in the lap of luxury but she had one indulgence. Every night after dinner she would enjoy her tea with honey. But when she heard the news, she gave it up. How could she enjoy her “treat” when her brethren were suffering like that? How could she not do something, give up something, to demonstrate her empathy, her caring?

We are not enjoined to refrain from physical intimacy at a time of challenge for the Jewish people. In fact the Jewish women in Egypt are praised for going out into the fields to seduce their tired, despairing husbands and in so doing continue to create a future for the Jewish people. To demonstrate hope, to continue to proliferate, in the face of our enemies is perhaps the best revenge of all!

And yet we feel we must do something. How can we witness the daily struggles of our brothers and sisters in Israel and yet go about our lives as if nothing has changed? We can’t and most of us don’t. The Jews of America and even those in Israel not involved in the fight are doing acts of kindness non-stop – sending money, clothing, toiletries, gifts – and most of all prayers! In my daughter’s small neighborhood in Jerusalem, a call went out for homemade cookies to send to the troops in Gaza. They were flooded with 200 batches! The giving is amazing, inspiring, awesome and unifying. But perhaps we could do more.

Everyone has to make their own decision, their own choice, find their own place but I want to suggest that we also give up something while Israel remains under siege – maybe that latte from Starbucks, maybe that mid-afternoon cookie, maybe that extra pair of shoes, maybe that daily piece of chocolate – just something. It can be very small. It can be very private. You don’t need to tell me and I’m not telling you. But it’s a daily reminder; the Jewish people is in trouble. They need our help, they need our support, they need our prayers.

It’s an aspect of sensitivity. It suggests that we don’t just care about their struggles, we identify with them. Their struggles are our struggles. Forfeit a small indulgence so that we don’t become calloused and so we continue to feel as one.

In Dennis Prager’s book “Why the Jews?” he says that people attack the Jews for only caring about each other. He responds that it’s not that Jews only care about each other but rather that only Jews care about each other. Let’s continue to demonstrate in as many different and varied ways that we can that his words are true.

July 26, 2014

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 8

(7) Melissa, August 5, 2014 1:11 AM

introspection is more my way

as i hear the stories of the conditions of running day and night to bomb shelters i have taken upon myself to pay closer attention to all the things we take for granted in the WEst, simple freedoms like daily transits, restful sleep, enough to eat and thinking even more about those in Israel ... & bringing this forward into more thoughtful prayers.

(6) Barbara Jeffries, August 1, 2014 1:45 PM

Trade soldier's pain for mine.

I broke my wrist rather badly and on 7/30 I had it surgically fixed. I have been asking Hashem to use my pain to take away the pain of an injured soldier. Some how I hope that I can ease one of our brave boys through my pain. Since I'm home recuperating I'm praying a lot. Have also donated to Magen David Adom and Aish. tonight I will light candles and pray for Israel and our kids in the IDF. I will continue to use my Facebook page to promote truth by posting Aish and Jerusalem Post and IDF articles.

(5) Hilary, July 30, 2014 1:15 PM

That is correct. Am in Kenya and not able to do much, but am praying for you Israel, am praying for you Jews - The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob stand with you. May the Lord God fight for you as He did in the days of old.


(4) Aaron, July 29, 2014 9:28 PM

I'm Adding not Subtracting

I enjoy your columns but this one did not strike a chord with me. Instead of subtracting I am adding. I am adding to my learning and my tzedakah. Also, I believe Noach et al did not engage in relations because of privacy issues.

Rachel, August 1, 2014 6:28 PM

She is quoting Rashi in Noah. He writes straight out that they did not engage in marital relations because the rest of the world was deeply suffering.
Adding is a beautiful thing to do and definitely a proper response to tzaros. Klal Yisrael needs all the zchusim we can get, especially at this time, and yasher koach to you for actively adding your part!
What she is suggesting, in what you refer to as 'subtracting', is a heightened level of sensitivity. It's an internal feeling of "how can i possibly be doing xyz when my brothers are suffering so much?!" The subtracting that she mentioned from, for example, the Rebbetzin during the Holocaust was done as an immediate response. She intrinsically felt that she was incapable of indulging when her brothers were suffering.
However, while most of us (myself included) don't feel that automatically, the way to get to that feeling and share in their pain is by doing the reverse - first choosing something to 'subtract', as a respectful and sensitive way of acknowledging their daily painful reality, and hopefully after that outward action will affect our internal feelings. Hachitzoniyus m'oreres es hapnimiyus.

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