By Rabbi Levi Volovik / Chabad of the Berkshires
Life is one big cruise, not always with smooth sailing. We sometimes find ourselves flooded with daily problems and challenges. As we ingest the news of the past few weeks, our daily problems take backstage to the indescribable murderous attack and the onslaught of terror that gushed forth a flood of unparalleled evil, threatening our very existence as a people. We share the pain, personally and collectively trying to navigate through these very difficult and troubling days together. At this moment, we ask not why this horror happened, but what can we do?
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi taught that one must live with the times – namely, with the Torah portion of the week. If the relevance of the weekly portion is always apparent, the Torah portions Bereshit and Noach, with which we began our new Torah reading cycle, take on greater relevance in light of the savage Simchat Torah massacre that left the civilized world reeling with pain and anguish. With broken hearts we share the grief of families whose lives were shattered, we share the suffering of those missing, those wounded, and those taken captive, and we stand in awe of the courage and self-sacrifice of our soldiers on the frontlines. May G-d protect them all.
Living with the weekly Torah portion clearly connects to current world events. At the very beginning, we are told that G-d created heaven and earth. As Rashi's commentary explains, the Torah begins with this very first verse to inform us that G-d Above, the Creator and Master of this world, apportioned the land as He wished, and he saw fit to give the Land of Israel as an eternal heritage to Am Yisrael. More so, Rashi states, this is our most potent answer to those who claim that we "occupied" the territory on our own.
The portion of Noach, speaks about the Great Flood that washed away all existence, except for those who were in the ark. Interestingly, the flood in Noach's time was brought on because "the earth was filled with Chamas," with violence, murder, promiscuity, immorality, and theft. And when G-d saw the evil interactions that wayward mankind did not perceive as amoral corruption, their fate for destruction was sealed. Noach alone, the one righteous man in that generation, was commanded by G-d to build an ark – a home that would protect him and his family from the outside raging water.
So what can we do? How fortunate are we that the Torah is our guide for a meaningful life, not only in tumultuous times but at all times. First and foremost, harmonious coexistence is the Torah way. Let's remember that the limited population in the ark was diverse. Besides Noach and his family there was representation by every living species created, the fierce and the tame, the strong and the weak. Surprisingly, all lived safely and peacefully in their tight quarters for a full year. If this was the behavior of the animals, how much more is expected of a people mandated with the mitzvah to love our fellow? Unity should be our constant natural state of existence. Sometimes, however, it is the danger that lurks from the outside that unifies us as a people, enabling us to counteract the surrounding turbulence, the negativity, the threats, and the demoralization, be it in the war zone or the home front. It is unity that helps us prevail as one people with one Torah, under one G-d, continuing to bring light to a dark, chaotic world.
In addition, navigating safely through choppy waters enjoins us to build an ark - a home protected with Mezuzah and Holy Books, with Tefillin and the lighting of Shabbat candles. We are called upon to ensure our ark's durability by fortifying it with the protective sealants of Torah study, heartfelt prayer, an extra chapter of Psalms, mitzvot, and good deeds - the energy of which is a strike against the enemy. Let's strengthen G-d's world by strengthening Torah values. We cannot all be on the frontlines to fight the physical war in Israel; but we are called to active duty by fighting this war with our spiritual tools. We are all called upon to open our minds to acceptance of others, to open our hearts with love and compassion for our brothers and sisters, to open our hands to grab another mitzvah, and to share our monetary blessings with those in need. Each one was created with unique G-d-given ability; now is the time to reveal it and answer the call of the hour. We may be standing on the sidelines, but we are equipped with the spiritual weaponry that will, with the help of the One Above, lead to victory.
May G-d, the guardian of Israel, protect our soldiers on the front, and may they and all the hostages return home safely. May we on our part flood the world with the light of our positive deeds, with Ahavat Yisroel, with acts of goodness, kindness and holiness, and through our collective efforts, may we witness the final redemption with Moshiach's imminent arrival!
Rabbi Levi Volovik is co-director of Chabad of the Berkshires in Pittsfield. Rabbi Volovik (right} at the October 11 Vigil for Israel in Pittsfield.
If anyone needs a mezuzah, a pair of Tefillin, Shabbat candles, or a Book of Psalms, Chabad of the Berkshires is here to help. We can guide you in how to do it and what to say. Of course, you are welcome to join us for a Torah class, or Shabbat services. And if you wish to contribute in any way to ease the pain of brothers and sisters in Israel, please contact us. We are in this together. Am Yisrael Chai!!
Rabbi Levi Volovik is co-director of Chabad of the Berkshires in Pittsfield.