t was almost two months ago that I wrote about #bringbackourgirls, lamenting the kidnapping of a school full of young girls in Nigeria and talking about the sad relevance of the mitzvah of pidyon sh'vuyim / redeeming captives.
Here we are again, two months after the Nigerian girls were captured by the Boko Haram terrorist group. Some of those girls escaped, some are still in captivity and are being held prisoner until they can be exchanged, apparently, for Boko Haram activists being held in Nigerian prisons. We do not know the fate or state of those girls. Let us not forget them as each news cycle brings us fresher causes for concern.
We must, though, protest, voice our outrage, yell into the wind: the new vogue in terrorism seems to be the capture of children. Three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped by the Hamas terror organization just over a week ago.
There is little sense in asking why when discussing an act of terror. The "why" is to generate terror. And now, apparently, with the well-oiled mechanisms of social media, a new "why" is to draw the world's attention to the terrorist cause. Free publicity. Had you ever heard of Boko Haram, or knew what it meant before mid-April? Had you grown complacent about Hamas as it took its place in the government of the Palestinian Authority? The horror of children in captivity is too painful to contemplate for more than a moment or two . . . but those children, the remaining captive Nigerian girls and Israel's three boys, are living that horror every single moment of every single day.
This week's Torah reading, Korach, opens with one of the Torah's most difficult passages. A leader from the tribe of Levi, Korach, stirs up a crowd and pushes into Moses' face challenging Moses' authority and therefore challenging God's choices and leadership as well. The fate of the rebels is brutal: they, their homes, their families are all swallowed up by the earth. This is, of course, a cautionary tale against challenging God's authority and decisions. At a time like ours, as we look with helpless outrage at the faces of terrorist-abducted children, we wish some of that biblical justice could be meted out right now while the children are whisked safe and sound back to the embrace of their families.
God has adjusted the parameters of divine intervention in human affairs since the days of Korach and, I believe, is a source of strength, wisdom and guidance for us in the face of events we cannot fathom alone. We will pray for Gilad Shaer, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach . . . and their parents and all those who love them at Shabbat services here at Torat Yisrael.
For those of us who find that music helps express what is deepest in our hearts, here is a video of a song by two Israeli musicians:
One of the key elements of this week's Torah reading is introduced in the opening passage. God instructs Moses: "Send men and let them scout the land of Canaan that I'm giving to the children of Israel...." From that moment to this very day, Jews have examined the Land from outside her borders and used the culled information to sustain our bonds to that place.
This past week was one of the times when diaspora Jewish communities all around the world were focussed sharply on Israel. The Knesset was voting to appoint the 10th president of the State of Israel.
Many of us regretted, but reluctantly accepted the inevitability of , President Shimon Peres' retirement. Over the course of his decades of service to the State of Israel, the people of Israel and the Jewish people as a whole, Shimon Peres has been much more a statesman than a politician. He has proven to be an insightful and wise leader and innovator.
After months of conjecture, lobbying, speculating and commenting, the members of Israel's Knesset have elected Shimon Peres' successor, Ruby Rivlin. Mr. Rivlin is a controversial figure from the point of view of Jews living outside the state of Israel.
I invite you to follow the link I've provided to read an insightful "Open Letter" to Israel's new president by Times of Israel blogger and president of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, Yehuda Kurtzer. You'll find a balanced and intelligent review of Mr. Rivlin's career and an intelligent presentation of the concerns raised here in the American Jewish community. I join Mr. Kurtzer in hoping that our most dire predictions about Mr. Rivlin's presidency will prove baseless:
There are many points of value to discuss in this week's Parashah / Torah portion, but this week I feel compelled to relate to a current and pressing concern: I will be joining my colleagues and friends in the #notonemore campaign, an opportunity for the grassroots to raise our voices against incident after incident of gun violence in our country.
There are moments when individual liberties must be constrained for the common good. Our country is living through one of these moments. The rest of the world looks at us burying bystanders and children and passersby and shake their head in wonder at our stubbornness.
So I ask, if you feel that gun control legislation and enforcement is falling short, if you are sickened when you hear of mass, random and accidental shootings, then please consider participating with is. Make a handmade sign that says: #NotOneMore and take a selfie or have someone take your picture, send it to me (email@example.com) and I will forward all our photographs to my colleague, Rabbi Menachem Creditor, who is organizing this effort.
We do not have to sit in silence, sit broken-heartened and passive in the face of these murders and injuries.
Rabbi Amy Levin
has been Torat Yisrael's rabbi since the summer of 2004 and serves as President of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island.