Today, a synagogue lies drenched in Jewish blood, and our nation mourns as one.
The soul cries out: What do we do? What can we do? What is the answer to those who hate us?
This afternoon, as I pull myself away from the news and the poetry and the terrible pictures, I find my mind wandering to the past…
I’d been in Israel for about half a year when the Jews of Jerusalem marched to war. It was the first day of Adar, 2009. We left Yeshiva under the cover of darkness and walked (the light rail was still an open ditch running down Yaffo street) toward the city entrance. Our small group joined with rivers of people, thousands of men and women. There was an electric excitement in the air, mixed with solemnity – a sorrowful volatility, a joyous melancholy. As we neared the battle, the music grew louder, shaking us awake.
A year earlier to the day, an Arab terrorist slaughtered eight Yeshiva students at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva, most of them minors. A year earlier to the day, the Jews of Jerusalem were plunged into a nightmare. And now was the time for vengeance.
Throngs of people converged on the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva. The music had reached pulverizing strength. We pushed forward through the thousands, close to the Yeshiva’s gate, where in the yellow streetlight stood a chuppah, a portable marriage canopy. Under it danced a new Sefer Torah, a scroll resplendent in a brilliant mantle and adorned with a silver crown. It danced with Jews from far and wide, Ultra- and non-Orthodox, Sephardim and Ashkenazim, storekeepers and Talmudic masters. It danced with a fiery fury, a phoenix, born of Jewish ashes.
Because a year after eight students were murdered at this Yeshiva, the Jews brought to it eight new Torahs, eight new beacons of light. This is Jewish retaliation; this is Jewish war. For thousands of years, no matter what darkness suffuses this fell world, we fight against it with light, with menorahs in winter windows and scrolls of wisdom clutched in wrinkled hands. For millennia, the world has trampled on the Jew. For millennia, the Jew stands up, dusts himself off, and lights a candle.
Our war band, dancing and singing and embracing each other, marched through the Yeshiva gates. The press of people was unbelievable, the pressure an unbearable cleansing. We pushed our way inside the building itself, into the humid Beit Midrash, its overflowing walls shaking from the sound of delirious joy. There, gripping one of the new scrolls like a lifeline, was a relative of one of the holy dead. Hot tears rolled down his cheeks as he swayed side to side and sang with the Jewish people.
Through that ink and parchment wrapped in velvet and crowned in silver, he hugged his brother, his son, his cousin. For the first time in my life, my brother, my son, my cousin. Through that holy weight, we united, and our songs flew into the night.
With light, joy, and love, we inflicted on this cruel world an everlasting victory.
Originally posted on Hevria.
Originally on Hevria