by R. Eliezer Simcha Weisz
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I write to you from a besieged Israel, where we have been engaged in a war for survival for over a month. Our soldiers are fighting heroically and with great courage to defend our land and people. From your vantage point in the diaspora, you must have many questions during this difficult time. I hope to provide some perspective by sharing insights from this week’s Torah portion.
Unity and Solidarity
Our people here are showing immense courage and unity. Though physically distant, I know your hearts are with us in solidarity and prayer. As the saying goes, “we stand together in times of trouble.” Your support matters greatly and brings comfort to those on the frontlines.
The Healing Presence of Unity
This week’s Torah portion tells how Avraham was visited by angelic visitors (malachim) in disguise. One of the malachim’s tasks was to cure Avraham, who had just performed brit milah. The Chafetz Chaim, the great Torah sage and commentator, asked: If the malach came to heal Avraham, how could Avraham run to greet them before the malach arrived?
The Chafetz Chaim explained that the malach healed Avraham through his very presence. As soon as Avraham saw the malach, he was cured.
So too now, our strength comes not only from military skills, but from our faith in Hashem and unity with you. Even when you are physically distant from our homeland, let’s remember that “Imo anochi b’tzara” – we stand together in times of trouble. Your support and efforts matter, and they bring comfort to those on the front lines and those most affected by the crisis.
Sanctity of Life
This war has resulted in much tragic loss of precious life, including soldiers, fathers, mothers, babes, and sucklings. This week’s parsha (Bereishit 22) tells how God tests Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his son Yitzchak (Akeidat Yitzchak). As this story teaches, kedusha—sanctity—means valuing life above all else.
Our enemies glorify death, but we must honor the living. Their hatred cannot defeat our love. We are saddened and broken-hearted for the loss of all those many soldiers and citizens who died al Kiddush Hashem these past few weeks in a war for survival of the state of Israel to defend the Jewish people.
The story of Akeidat Yitzchak teaches us that we value life above all else. When we talk about the zechut of Akeidat Yitzchak, we focus on the actions of Avraham over Yitzchak. Why? Because as much as a zechut it is to give one’s life al Kiddush Hashem, as Yitzchak was prepared to do, we would much prefer to get the zechut of living al Kiddush Hashem. We cherish the opportunity to live ‘al Kiddush Hashem,’ sanctifying life itself all the while remembering hose who gave their life on Kiddush Hashem. We owe them a debt that can never be repaid, and we must do all we an to perpetuate their memory, support their families, and be forever grateful for their supreme sacrifice in order to save Am Yisrael.
We often ask ourselves why our people suffer. After the Akeidah, Avraham Avinu was told that Nachor, his brother, had given birth to a number of children. Why does this story appear at this point, and what does it have to do with the Akeidah? After going through decades of waiting for a child and then the nisayon of having to prepare him as a sacrifice, Avraham finds out that his brother was blessed with many children with zero effort. Avraham’s brother Nachor’s effortless blessings served as a unique test for Avraham.
Similarly, we, as a resilient people, have faced countless challenges throughout history. We, as a people, have suffered disproportionately compared to other nations and groups. Our nisayon is not to look at other nations and be jealous, but to look inwards and take pride in our tenacity and resilience and faith in the face of nisyonos. Rather than comparing ourselves to others, let’s focus on our internal strength and tenacity. Our journey is marked by determination, not envy. In the face of adversity, let us take pride in our ability to overcome nisyonos and emerge stronger together. We have endured much, yet bezrat Hashem have continuously overcome. Our path is marked by grit, not grievance.
The Final Test
We cannot know when the nisayon will end. The Mishnah (Avot 5:3) states that Avraham was faced with ten challenges, or tests, and he withstood them all. Rabbeinu Yonah lists the test of the binding of Isaac (Akeidat Yitzchak) as the ninth test. He finds the tenth, and final, test of Avraham at the beginning of Parshat Chayei Sarah, in the challenge Avraham faced in having to haggle with the Sons of Chet over his ownership of the Land of Israel.
This was after God had already promised the Land to Avraham. Yet the only way Avraham could bury Sarah was to bargain over a small parcel of that very land! What happened to Hashem’s promise? Yet Avraham accepted this test, says Rabbeinu Yonah, and did not complain.
We who grew up believing “Never Again” after the Holocaust cannot fathom the resurgence of antisemitism we are witnessing today. Who could imagine protestors openly calling to “Kill the Jews” and “Massacre them” in modern times? And continue to threaten repetition of atrocities “again and again” to bring about the annihilation of the Jewish state.” But as Rabbeinu Yonah teaches, our trials are not over. There is one more test left, one final challenge to face until we merit the fulfilment of Hashem’s promise to Avraham as told in this week’s Parsha.
We pray for the fulfilment of the promise in Parshat Haazinu: “One day all the nations of the world will lift us up, those that suffered will be avenged, and those that oppress us will be no more.”
“Harninu goyim amo ki dam avadav yikom, ve’nakom yashiv le’tzarav vechiper admaso amo.”
The trials facing our people are many. But with emunah, courage, and compassion, we will prevail.
Take heart, dear friends. With faith and unity, we will weather this storm as we have every one before.
Please continue to pray with us. Our destinies are intertwined. Support us, study Torah, perform mitzvot, and maintain your connection to your brethren here in Israel. Together, through our shared faith and heritage, we will overcome the challenges before us.
May Hashem bless us with strength and peace always.