Three weeks ago this Shabbat, our Jewish world was turned upside down in a way that it will never, in our lifetime, be the same. In the midst of this dark and most devastating time, there have been so many sources of light, healing and hope.
Rabbi Andrea London shared the following story with me earlier this week. At Tufts University, where I went to college, there is a cannon upon which students paint messages almost nightly. Once it painted in the middle of the night, the students watch over it to ensure their work lasts through the night.
The Tufts J Street President shared with my colleague that in the immediate aftermath of the atrocities in Israel, he and his peers debated what to paint on the cannon. For as we know, while the war against Hamas is being waged 6000 miles away, many college campuses are feeling the tension and the pain, and often facing a war of words.
One of his peers suggested to the J Street President that they paint a bold and bright Israeli flag.
But the student leader said, “No, let’s paint the words of the Shema.”
They painted in Hebrew prayer, “Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad, Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.”
The Shema is about listening and the Shema is about oneness.
There is healing and hope in the listening, the oneness and the unity of the Israeli people. The monumental protest movement that for nine months mobilized the population in defense of democracy, is now mobilizing on the street to support the entire country that has been touched by this tragedy. Homes are being opened for those displaced from the south and the north. Meals are being cooked for the bereft. Musicians are playing concerts on the streets. There is a hope in the oneness of the unwavering commitment to bring home the hostages. Israel will not sleep and we will not sleep to all are home.
There is hope in the oneness and unity of our American Jewish community — Jews across the denominations are continually coming together as we are tonight.
And there is a oneness of Jews globally – raising remarkable funds again and again and again to support soldiers, to support the wounded, the displaced, the children, the rebuilding, and to support peace.
There is oneness in our collective sleepless anxiety. There is oneness in the calls of concern and compassionate hugs from our neighbors, colleagues and friends who are not Jewish. They can see and sense and feel our pain. Some of them are here tonight.
There is oneness in our global concern for the safety of all innocent civilians across the region.
And there is hope – in the Jewish pride our college students are showing and in the Jewish pride we are showing. And there is hope that out of this pain a new reality will be born where peace will be possible.
Our continued hope should not be a surprise — for we are part of a millennial tradition of hope to be an am chofshi b’artzenu – eretz tzion v’Yerushalim, to be a free and safe and proud people in our land – the land of Zion and Jerusalem.