Opinion

The spiritual front of this war

Let us set aside 25 hours to return to our essential selves, our true identity and our sacred Jewish values.

Tea lights. Credit: Ri-Ya/Pixabay.
Tea lights. Credit: Ri-Ya/Pixabay.
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Rabbi Warren Goldstein
Rabbi Warren Goldstein is the chief rabbi of South Africa and the founder of the International Shabbat Project.

In addition to the all-too-real—and critical—physical battle raging in Gaza for the safety and security of the Jewish state, there is a spiritual war going on. Hamas, a terror group that explicitly targets Jews for being Jewish, launched this war on Shabbat and Simchat Torah. They marched into Jewish homes on this holy day and massacred Jewish families.

Let’s be clear. This is not just about our physical presence or the borders of our state. This was not about political or military gain. Hamas’s stated aim—carried in their founding charter, but expressed more clearly through their savage actions—is to obliterate Jews from the face of the earth; an objective shared with Iran, Hezbollah and other murderous groups. It’s about who we are and what we stand for. It’s about our values, our history and our destiny.

This is what our enemies seek to uproot. And we all feel it, as Jewish communities throughout the Diaspora have been brought onto the front lines with the recent surge in antisemitic incidents. Antisemitism is not a conventional form of racism. We Jews are not a race; we’re white and black and brown, a multitude of ethnicities and cultures. We are our values, our Divine mission and destiny.

This evil needs to be defeated physically by the noble military battle being waged by the brave soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces. But this spiritual attack also requires a spiritual response. We need to reaffirm our values and our Jewish identity, to tell our enemies loud and clear that they will never destroy us. Am Yisrael Chai: “The Jewish people live!” We live through our values. And at the heart of our values, our Jewish identity, is Shabbat. 

It’s no coincidence that the attack took place on Shabbat. Shabbat is the very soul of the Jewish people. It is the God-given gift that has within it everything we need at this time of historic challenge and forever—resolve and inner peace, faith and purpose, family and community, and the eternal meaning of being a Jew.

This year’s Shabbat Project arrives within days of the shloshim—the 30-day period of mourning—marking the passing of the more than 1,400 Jewish martyrs brutally murdered by Hamas. Our answer is a call to arms to keep Shabbat. It is a clear statement of intent that we will not succumb, we will not submit, we will not forsake our eternal values.

Let the word go forth that on this year’s Shabbat Project, Jews in every part of the globe will keep Shabbat from sunset on Friday, Nov. 3 until stars out on Saturday, Nov. 4. It will be a sublime moment of global Jewish unity: one people, one heart, one Shabbat. Keeping it together for Israel.

Let us join together in our homes and synagogues, in community centers and in the streets of cities worldwide. Let us gather with family, friends and neighbors, and with our brothers and sisters throughout the world, as one people with one heart.

Let us light the candles to usher the light of peace and holiness into our homes. Let us bless our children and gain a renewed appreciation for our own blessings. Let us say the words of Kiddush, the mission statement of the Jewish people. Let us make the blessing on two challahs representing our faith and trust in God. Let us pray together as communities. Let us set aside our work and our chores and our devices—all the demands and distractions diverting our attention from the people closest to us. Let us set aside 25 hours to return to our essential selves, our true identity and our sacred Jewish values. 

And just as we brought Shabbat in with light, let us see it out with light—the light of the Havdalah candle, its illumination spilling like wine from a cup into the week ahead. Let us spread the light of Shabbat throughout the world, and keep these 25 hours as a badge of pride, proclaiming to the generations of Jews who came before us and the generations of Jews yet to come: Am Yisrael Chai.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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