Regarding the Attacks on Israel from Gaza – 7 October, 2023

by Rabbi Audrey Pollack, October 7, 2023

October 7, 2023
22 Tishre 5784

Dear Friends,

Uncharacteristically, I woke up early this morning, long before I usually get up on Shabbat. Unable to fall back to sleep, I got up and saw the terrifying news of a massive, coordinated attack on Israel by Hamas terrorists. I spent the next hour reading the news and trying to process my own shock and grief while considering how best to proceed with our morning prayer service. I am grateful that for our youth and their families, we were able to celebrate last night’s Erev Shabbat and Simchat Torah celebration and consecration of our new students with hearts full of joy. Today, on this Shabbat morning and Simchat Torah, a day dedicated to peace and a festival of Torah, that is supposed to be one of simcha, joy, marking the end of the Fall holy day season, we are broken-hearted. 50 years ago, almost to this day, on October 6, 1973, the Yom Kippur war broke out. As we watch the images on the news today, we are transported back in time to the horror of that war. What is similar, it seems, is that then as now, Israel was caught unprepared, leading us to the unprecedented situation happening right now.

I reached out to friends and colleagues in Israel and sent a special message to our sister congregation Darchei Noam, sharing our concern and our constant prayers for safety and healing. Rabbi Eli Levin and Ilana Dothan sent this message back “Your friendship and prayers really give us a bit of comfort in these terrible hours. We send back an embrace of love and thanks.”

We went ahead with our prayers on this Shabbat and Simchat Torah, out of a sense of obligation to celebrate the festival, and for all of our sisters and brothers in Israel who would not be able to do so, Israeli Reform rabbis offered their blessing “If it makes any difference, I would be comforted to know that my colleagues are bringing people joy. I don’t regret cancelling our services, but I’m certainly sad that we had to.” (Rabbi Haim Shalom)

This morning we carried both love and pain as we held high our Torah scrolls, celebrating the ending and beginning of Torah all over again, recognizing that in Jewish life, we often have to hold both joy and sorrow at the same time. Whatever we bring to our prayers is welcome. That was already true as we recite Yizkor as part of the liturgy for this last day of Yom Tov, last day of the Fall Chagim. And our hearts and our prayers are turned to those in Israel, as we prayed with great love for strength, courage, and healing.

In the coming days, we will no doubt hear more terrible stories, as the numbers increase of multiple casualties, those wounded, those taken hostage in Israel, and those kidnapped and taken to Gaza.

Rabbi Nir Barkin, rabbi of our Reform community Kehilat Yozma in Modi’in wrote earlier today: “These are unsettling, disturbing, and scary times to say the least. We do not know what is ahead, but we do know that we are at war. And that we are seeing and experiencing scenarios that have no precedent – even in Israel’s decades-long history of conflict….. All during the day, we hear of our young people who are in active service being called to the fighting and of those who have finished their service being called up to emergency reserve duty. So much is still unclear. Schools in Israel will not open tomorrow after the Sukkot holiday as planned and it is not clear when they will reopen. It is not clear who will be able to return to work as the Home Command as ordered everyone to stay within a close distance of a safe room or bomb shelter. It is not clear how long it will take for the IDF to restore order, nor what Israel’s response will be and how long it will go on.”

Israel needs our support in this national emergency. Our friends and family who live in Israel are feeling more vulnerable right now than usual. I am trying to reach out to as many as I can, so that they will know that they are in my thoughts, and, I hope, in yours. לִבִּי בְמִזְרָח (Libi B’mizrach) I am in the West, but my heart is in the East, and today my heart is broken. We pray for safety for our loved ones, for the healing of the wounded, redemption for those captured and comfort for the many bereaved.

הָ֭רֹפֵא לִשְׁב֣וּרֵי לֵ֑ב וּ֝מְחַבֵּ֗שׁ לְעַצְּבוֹתָֽם׃
מוֹנֶ֣ה מִ֭סְפָּר לַכּוֹכָבִ֑ים לְ֝כֻלָּ֗ם שֵׁמ֥וֹת יִקְרָֽא׃
Ha-Rofei Lish-vu-rei Lev, Um’cha-besh le’atz-vo-tam
Moneh mis-par la’kocha-vim, Le’chu-lam sheh-mot yikra

Healer of the broken hearted, binder of our wounds
Counter of uncountable stars, you know who we are (Psalm 147:3)

יְהוָה-עֹז, לְעַמּוֹ יִתֵּן; יְהוָה, יְבָרֵךְ אֶת-עַמּוֹ בַשָּׁלוֹם
Adonai oz le’amo yiten, adonai yevarekh et-amo va’shalom.

May strength be granted to God’s people; may God bless this people with peace. (Psalm 29:11)


Rabbi Audrey S. Pollack

Please also see the following statements from the leadership of liberal Judaism around the world:

From the Union of Reform Judaism: Reform Leaders Respond to Hammas Terrorist Attacks in Israel
From the World Union for Progressive Judaism: WUPJ Statement on Unprecedented Terror Attacks in Israel
From the Central Conference of American Rabbis: CCAR Statement of Solidarity with the State and People of Israel

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