Word for the Herd: Torah from your favorite teacher
What an amazing parallel the Jewish world has for this week's Torah Portion and historical events. This week, we read BeShalach from the Torah, the part of the Exodus story when we were delivered out of Egypt and HaShem via Moshe split the Red Sea. What a joyous and iconic miracle--- that with an out-stretched arm Moshe could part the sea for long enough to allow the Jewish People to the other side and then close it back on the evil Egyptians chasing after us. In fact, part of our daily prayers include recounting this story when we sing "Shirat HaYam," The Song of the Sea. Nearly everyone on earth knows that Jews were once slaves in Egypt and delivered to freedom by Moses.
History repeats itself.
The Jewish people became numerous and prosperous in Europe in the 1900s and were persecuted and eventually enslaved and murdered during WWII/The Holocaust. This week, on January 27, the world marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the deadliest concentration camp, Aushwitz-Birkenau. You can read more about the atrocities committed against Jews, Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, Homosexuals and more on THIS wikipedia page. This time there was no great parting of the Red Sea, but I am certain after reading many accounts provided by the Shoah Foundation, that the survivors of Aushwitz felt as if they were experiencing a joyous miracle of freedom when the allies (British and Soviets) freed them from slavery and their impending death.
There are many lessons to be learned, but we must as modern Jews and Human beings strive to never let history repeat itself against our people or others. Jews are obligated to have daily reminders of freedom. We remember HaShems miracles by hanging a mezuzah on our doors. We remember our liberation by reading Parashat BeShalach, honoring the various anniversaries of the Holocaust, but continuing to improve the world and protect ourselves so that we may never again be enslaved. And never give up hope--- because we learn time and time again: When the Jewish people fall under hard times, HaShem always sends help and we will survive.
What happened in Paris this past week is pretty shocking on a lot of levels. As long as you aren't living under a rock, you know about the terror attack at the Parisian Magazine Charlie Hebdo that killed 12 people--- You probably heard about the hostage taking at a Kosher grocery store and killing of Jewish People. You heard about the murder of a police person too. You may have even heard that synagogues were closed for the first time since the Holocaust.
WHY is the world going crazy? What does this mean for Jews? What can we do to protect ourselves? Is there any good that can come out of such evil?
The world is going mad, because of extremism. The best way I've learned to define extremism is like extreme Doritos... the spiciest version of something good turned too spicy. No matter what, regardless of the situation, we must always remember there is no such thing as black and white (other than a panda....). No one is all good. No one is 100% right. And we should never hurt or kill people for their opinions. In this day and age, Extremism is what kills. It is intolerance of the other. But unfortunately a very small but dangerous part of the worlds population is extreme. And until they disappear we are all at risk.
What did this attack mean for Jews? Well for the first time in a long time the Jewish people under attack is trending: #Je Suis Juif (French for 'I am a Jew') has been posted by people of all religions around the world, feeling the pain and suffering of our people. The unity march of 3.7 million people vowing to work together to end terror and respect freedom of religion and freedom of speech and press is a magical thing. For the first time MAYBE EVER in history, a terror attack that had a lot to do with Jews was also NOT JUST about Jews. It was about everyone. And It's really cool that the world has this moment to all come together with a common goal of peace. Its pretty great the in this moment Jews aren't mourning alone. And they aren't fighting alone either. The world can be unified . The fact that Palestinian President Abbas is a few spots away from Israel's PM Netanyahu shows how much potential for peace there is in the world. We can only hope it wasn't just for show.
The fact is, we are all French Jews. Jews in NYC. Jews in Tel Aviv. Jews in Australia. South America. We are all from the same forefathers. We share the same homeland and many geneticists believe that the world's Jewry is all related to each other like 4th cousins. As it says in Vayikrah Chapter 19: "You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall not take revenge or feel resentment against the children of your people, you shall love your companion [reyacha] as yourself." All of our neighbors are our brothers and sisters in the world. But we must remember to stay true and compassionate towards our brothers and sisters. When they hurt it is as if we hurt. When they are under attack we are under attack. There is no difference.
What can we do to protect ourselves? Unite with those in fear and those mourning. Unite with prayer and good energy. Unite with love of each other and do our best to end extremism in every corner of the world that it exists. We must do our part to love our neighbors as our selves and good will come.