I remember the night of June 30th like it was yesterday, and yet already it seems like an eternity ago. The torrential rains wouldn’t seem to stop, nor would the intense, mournful beats of my heart. It was just hours since the three kidnapped yeshiva boys’ bodies had been found in an open field, strewn heartlessly with a few rocks for cover. The rains here in Chicago began shortly after I got the news, and the thunder was enough to catch someone dead in their tracks. Perhaps it was apropos, reflective of the three little ones that were literally caught dead in their tracks, without cause, and whose stories of their final minutes only seemed to finally come together as the pieces clicked in place with the discovery their bodies. The rain that night wouldn’t stop, and neither would my heartache. I lived in Allon Shvut-the last place the three boys were seen alive- when my husband was a Rabbinical student in Israel a few years ago. I walked the street where these three boys were last seen. I have hitchhiked myself on that same road where they were picked up by heartless terrorists masquerading as Israelis.
The sky that night after the discovery of their bodies was alive with G-d’s wrath, there was no other explanation. I don’t think I’d ever quite seen so much lightening in Chicago, such a torrent of endless rain. The whole world seemed to have stopped, people hiding inside their houses, waiting out the storm. But the news day after day since that day has brought a storm that we as a nation cannot just ‘wait out’. Yes, we have endured so much tragedy, but none of it has made us stop. When will the world realize, by the grace of Gd, we are here to stay? When will our enemies stop chasing us, stop putting us into ghettos, igniting pogroms and libel against us, stop gassing us, stop bombing us, stop stealing our boys- shooting them in cold blood- and leaving them in fields of desolation? When will we have the right to defend ourselves against rockets and international rage as we attempt to push back an enemy dead set on our destruction who will stop at nothing to spill our blood? Missile launching sites in hospitals, U.N. funded schools, places of worship? How can this evil not be wholeheartedly decried and denounced by the world, a world that has itself suffered terrorist attacks from similar Muslim extremists on almost every continent?
I believe the answer, the paradox of why the world can hate us despite all the good we try to do, comes from our own Torah-from the story of the prophet Bilaam- a man at the dawn of history, part of a long line of people who tried to curse us, but whose curses ultimately turned into Jewish blessing. He was a prophet of the nations, hired by the King of the mighty kingdom of Moab who sought to destroy our peace, sought to drive us from the world. Bilaam opened his mouth to curse us, but the curse turned into blessing, and not only that, but a fascinating foreshadowing of history as well. You see, part of the blessing is somewhat curious: The text in Numbers 23:9 reads: For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him: lo, it is a people that shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations. Could this be a blessing- To be a lonely nation not accepted by the world around us? How can dwelling alone be a blessing? These questions bring up heady issues, but difficult as they may be to answer, the verse sure does explain a lot. It feels lonely to be a Jew in our modern times, just as it has throughout the millennia. It feels isolating and upsetting to have contributed so much to world knowledge, arts, technology, medicine, history and philosophy only to have the tide turned against us time and time again. The only reason that it makes sense for the world to shun us in such a way is that it must be part of the Divine Plan, mentioned explicitly by Bilaam so long ago. And while that knowledge might seem difficult to swallow at first glance, when I ruminate about it more deeply it means to me that there is hope. If this is what Hashem wants for us, we must know that being a nation that dwells alone will lead us ultimately to our destiny, no matter how difficult it feels along the dusty and often blood-stained gravel of the meantime. Despite the storm of world fury that is going on around us as we attend rally’s around the world and speak up for Israel, we must keep our eyes on the prize.
Operation Protective Edge was born from the mission known as Operation Brother’s Keeper. The painful lessons of the past tell us that we must not stand idly by. The famous question of whether we are our brother’s keeper comes from the story of Kayin, a man who ironically struck his brother down in a field. The Torah tells us right after this famous question is posed, that G-d informed Kayin that the blood of his brother cried out from the ground. It is now, millenniums later that the blood of our brothers cries out to us from the ground of the field once again…
The tears are warm and painful on this hot summer night, but at least I have good company. As I watch the news-so brutal and biased- and read the count of the dead Israeli soldier rise, as I watch the Jewish people coming together in solidarity as a result of being pushed together alone on our own side of defending ourselves once more, from somewhere deep down, a sixth sense of mine hears the footsteps of the Lord in the garden that is our homeland. I look outside at the torrential storms punctuating a Chicago night weeks later and endless raindrops battering my rooftop and know deep down that G-d is crying with me, his daughter, a link of His nation that dwells alone.
About the Author: Beth Perkel is a rebbetzin, freelance writer, and blogger. Her work has been published in a wide variety of publications ranging from Newsweek magazine and Chicken Soup for the Soul to Aish.com. Her blog "Light at the Beginning of the Tunnel" combines Torah and positive psychology to shed light on teaching children happiness. She is currently working on a novel.
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