Dear Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel Family,
This Shabbat, one week after joyfully celebrating Shavuot, we find ourselves in a somber mood. During Shavuot, we rejoice as we remember G-d’s gift of the Torah on Mount Sinai seven weeks after our freedom from slavery and exodus from Egypt. We also recount the joys of the first harvest of grain in early summer. At this significant point in our history, we enter a lifelong and generational covenant with G-d. We chant Psalms of Praise to recount the wonders of the Lord and his greatness as we give thanks for our lives and daily blessings.
We find ourselves screaming in disbelief once more as Israel protects our homeland from 10 days of rocket fire from Hamas. We worry about our loved ones living in Israel. We pray for our valiant IDF soldiers fighting day and night to defend Israel from an extremist organization who have no regard for any human life. Jewish leaders have expressed their grief for the deaths of Jewish and Arab Israelis and Palestinians. To the core of our essence, we adamantly safeguard Israel’s right to defend our Jewish home.
Once more, we face attacks on local Jewish institutions and people. Anti-Semitism is not new to us and yet we worry daily about out safety here at home. Temples have increased security measures for our protection.
What do we do as a community today? We unify. We come together to support Israel. We mourn for the loss of all life. We teach our children the lessons of the Torah. We love and respect our neighbor as ourselves. We live our lives as respectful and righteous Jews who practice basic tenets of Judaism everyday: gemilut hasadim, (service to those in need), chesed, (kindness to all of G-d’s creations) and tikkun olam, (healing our world).
Rabbi Aaron Lerner, from UCLA’s Hillel, shared his thoughts this past week as he echoed our universal prayers for peace. He expressed that we are “one people with one heart, AM ECHAD v’LEV ECHAD.” He says, “It’s messy at times, but we are already a small people. To allow ourselves to be fractured into denominations and political orientations that can’t break bread together is foolish. Let’s learn to be a family instead.” Rabbi Leaner asks us to “seek peace and actively pursue it. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the Israelis and Palestinians living in fear. I can’t imagine being a parent on either side right now.”
The Midrash teaches: One person (Adam) was created as the common ancestor of all people, for the sake of the peace of the human race, so that one should not be able to say to a neighbor, “My ancestor was better than yours.” God formed Adam out of dust from all over the world: yellow clay, white sand, black loam, and red soil. Therefore, no one can declare to any people that they do not belong here since this soil is not their home.
As Rabbi Sharon Brous of IKAR laments, “As we hold heavy but still hopeful hearts, let us remember that violence is not inevitable. There is always another way.”
On this Shabbat, we pray for peace as one united community. We hope to see an end to violence in Israel and attacks on Jews around the world. We strive to unite with all people as we work diligently to create harmony amongst our neighbors.
With Shalom and love Marie and Leon