"Living in Israel is like a roller coaster, so hold on tight." This was some of the best advice I got when I first moved to Israel five years ago. The situation heats up. More rockets fall in the south. The phone calls and emails from friends who have sons and husbands in Gaza. People organize prayer groups, and warm gloves and scarves to be sent to the front.
When Israel is under fire, world Jewry feels it because a rocket directed at Israel is meant for every Jew. Ceasefire on again and off again, or rockets raining down -- in the north we prepare our bomb shelters. Are they unlocked? Are they clean enough? Is there electricity? We brace ourselves.
More email circulates: watch this video, read this article, pass it on. We're watching way too many videos about how our enemy trains their children, or uses them as human shields. We know their intention to destroy us. We can't believe that people are really like that, so we try to convince ourselves that it's really real.
We are stunned that the world is calling Israel the bully in this situation, or that the world thinks Israel is starving out the poor civilians, while all humanitarian efforts are channeled through Israel.
People from the U.S. ask me, "How are you? What can I do?" I have an answer. It's quite simple. The formula is ancient and powerful. Let's call it "CPR for the Jewish Soul."
P = Prayer
R = Return
Charity is the best translation we have for the Hebrew word "tzedakah." The Hebrew word does not just mean giving money, it means doing what is righteous. That might mean feeding people a meal, or donating clothes, or giving someone a place to stay as well as giving money. Yes, times are tough, but most of us still have a few dollars or even a few coins to add to the pot and it all adds up to change the world. And all of us can donate time and volunteer.
Prayer or "tefilla", can be said in one's own words. You don't need to pray in Hebrew; your native language is fine. You don't need to open a prayer book in order to pray. A prayer book is a good resource and a great place to begin. But if it's hard for you to do that, no worries. Talk to God. There are three parts to prayer:
- Know who you are addressing and acknowledge it
- Ask for something
- Express gratitude
Our formula is not a secret, it costs you nothing, and you don't even need to buy a book to own the power of prayer. Our nation is in the foxhole together and now is a great time to turn our eyes Heavenward together as one.
Return is the translation for the Hebrew word "tshuva." It means that if you are a Jew, you have a Jewish soul, and as a Jewish soul, you can return to the truth of who you are and why you are here. We Jews have a mission, and that mission is to shine the light of Torah into this world. We need to do a self-assessment to make sure we are living up to our potential as a member of the Jewish nation. Ask yourself what mitzvah or kindness can you do to make this world a better place.
It may take you back to the first two parts of this simple formula.
- If you are a woman, light Sabbath candles on Friday before sunset.
- If you are a Jewish man, put on tefillin and say the simple Shema prayer. (Or even say it without tefillin. When a Jew puts on tefillin, it puts fear in the heart of his enemy.)
- If you have small children, say Shema with them at bedtime.
- Make peace with a friend or relative or neighbor.
If you are already doing these things, find one additional, small thing you can do with love, and tip the scales.
There is a wonderful story about little animals in the field watching the snowfall. "How much does a snowflake weigh?"
"Nothing more than nothing."
Yet the weight of many snowflakes together can make a branch break, or cave in a roof! If each Jew will do his or her small part from everywhere in the world the results can be nothing less than miraculous.
Do not underestimate the power of each small act to change the world in these hard times. Now pass it on.