The tears of this year’s Simchat Torah and the tragedies that befell all of Am Yisrael will never be forgotten. In one of the most powerful piyutim ever written about the sacrifice of Isaac, the author (Judah ben Samuel ibn Abbas) describes the pain and the tears of the father and the son on Mount Moriah:
Hoping for the gates of mercy to be opened
Were the son to be sacrificed and the father to slaughter
A multitude of tears were shed
And he cried bitterly.
And so, upon hearing the murder of so many innocent lives and the hundreds taken as captives, our eyes were filled with tears, and our hearts were shattered with unbearable pain. But the pain was so much greater coming on a day that marks the height of our season of rejoicing. For seven days we sat in our sukkot, together with friends, family, and the Divine Presence. What could interrupt such supreme joy?
While the history of our people has been one long sacrifice of so many millions over the centuries, how could this tragedy occur here in our country? How could our security and intelligence not have any knowledge of such horrific plans to penetrate twenty-two different cities and communities? How could so many be taken as captives by bloodthirsty, bestial terrorists on that Simchat Torah morning?
The words of the piyut continues with a plea from Isaac to his beloved father:
Take from the ashes that remain after you take my life
And tell Sarah to smell the remains of her son Isaac.
The Shoah, and all those that were burned on the altar in every death camp and crematorium cried out to heaven to have mercy, and yet that morning there was no mercy, no compassion. I am sure that Rachel, whose tears would not stop after the destruction of the second Temple, was crying bitter tears that morning. And yet, none of those tears and none of those appeals for mercy prevented the murder of so many.
And here is our beloved country and in every Jewish community throughout the world a multitude of tears have been shed since that very traumatic morning. As Jeremiah describes his own pain at the time of the destruction of the first Temple and the deaths of so many of his people: “How does the city sit so alone, the city that once saw so many people has become like a widow.” How have so many kibbutzim and moshavim become desolate? How many cities have suffered so many losses – mothers, fathers, grandparents and children?
But unlike the sacrifices of the millions of the Shoah, this time we take comfort that we have an army, the best army in the entire world. And this army will seek out and destroy every leader and every terrorist that threatens our security and our people. And our sons and our grandsons who serve in the IDF will restore our deep pride in our medinah, and help heal some of the enormous pain. But the pain will not subside easily, and for the many families that have suffered the loss of their beloved ones this Simchat Torah will become an eternal yahrzeit.
But the piyut also ends with the great hope, the eternal hope of the coming of the final redemption:
And hear the sounds of the tekiah and the teruah
And say to Zion that the time has come for the yeshuah (salvation).
We cried out during the ten days of repentance for Hashem to hear our voices, to seal in the Book of Life all of Am Yisrael. Had we had any vision of what was to happen on Simchat Torah we would have flooded the gates of heaven with our cries and our petitions. And we would have said “Avinu Malkeinu tear asunder all evil decrees” with such force and power!
But we had no prophetic vision, and we ended Yom Kippur with the words of Shema Yisrael on our lips. We had declared our profound belief in You as king of the universe, but our enemies had other plans.
And now we have again added Avinu Malkeinu. And every line is so painful, so bitter and so true of what happened on that Simchat Torah. Avinu Malkeinu if there was no mercy, then have mercy on us for Your name that has been desecrated. Avinu Malkeinu, heal all those who were wounded, and please, please bring back all of those who were taken captive.
“For Hashem has listened to the sounds of my crying” (Psalms 6).