Announcing the Cardozo Academy Writers Guild!
Due to the war in Israel and other circumstances, I have asked Yehoshua Looks, a member of our Think Tank, Writer’s Guild, and Management Consultant to the Cardozo Academy to share with me the penning of the weekly Thoughts to Ponder Series. These essays are written in the spirit of the Cardozo Academy and with my full approval.
I thank him very much!
Nathan Lopes Cardozo
Words cannot express our deep appreciation for your support during these harrowing times. After the slaughter of our innocents on October 7, you responded—and continue to respond—to our acute needs, material and otherwise. You do it with an outpouring of love that we tangibly feel. And you do this even as you yourselves are under attack. Anti-Semitic acts are at unprecedented levels across the world. We, in Israel, are being warned to avoid travel abroad if at all possible. And if we do travel, not to display outward signs of our Jewishness, to stay away from synagogues and community centers. Truly very dark times.
And here in Israel, as our brave solders proceed deliberately and with caution to destroy the evil that must be destroyed, we continue to deal with the trauma of one month ago. Even though our children are mostly back in school, their lives are anything but normal. My grandchildren have identified the safe room in their dollhouse. They want adults to accompany them to the bathroom, in case there is a siren.
But we, as one nation, stand together, and with your help, we are providing for the needs of those displaced from their homes and for our soldiers. The Homefront Command and grassroots efforts across the country collect what is needed. There is such an outpouring of love at these collection centers. Parents and children who have lost so much come to pick out clothing, toiletries, toys and more. I brought what I could last week to our local distribution center and was caught in the downpour of our first serious rain in Jerusalem. With so much work to be done, a volunteer still found time to focus on my needs, to find me a place to sit down and dry off, ask me if I wanted a cup of coffee or tea. Small actions; large expressions of care.
This week marks the Sloshim, 30 days since the massacres of October 7. The Jewish laws of mourning focus first on the dead, on dignity from death to burial. The focus then turns to the needs of the close relatives of the deceased, with Shiva, the seven days of intense mourning, to the Sloshim, which—with the exception of the death of one’s parents—marks the end of the mourning period. However, even 30 days later, we as a nation find it hard to get past the mourning. We attend funerals and we visit Shiva houses, and we continue to mourn—either because we can’t move on, or choose not to. Or both.
Our Parsha this week, Chaya Sarah, starts with the death of our mother, Sarah, and details her husband Avraham’s preparation for her burial, including his reaction to her death. The second verse reads:
וַתָּ֣מת שָׂרָ֗ה בְּקִרְיַ֥ת אַרְבַּ֛ע הִ֥וא חֶבְר֖וֹן בְּאֶ֣רֶץ כְּנָ֑עַן וַיָּבֹא֙ אַבְרָהָ֔ם לִסְפֹּ֥ד לְשָׂרָ֖ה וְלִבְכֹּתָֽהּ׃
|Sarah died in Kiriath-arba—now Hebron—in the land of Canaan; and Abraham proceeded to mourn for Sarah and to bewail her.|
The כֹּ in the final word of the verse, וְלִבְכֹּתָֽהּ׃, in the Masoretic text is written with a smaller letter, as if there is something hidden, inexpressible in bewailing, a crying so painful that it must remain inside.
The Avi Ezer, a 19th century supercommentary on the Ibn Ezra, struggles with understanding ולבכותה; The author, Rabbi Shlomo ben Eliezer Lippman’s problem is that the Hebrew root, בכה , to cry, is an intransitive verb, lacking an object for the action. Quoting the Biblical Grammarian, Rabbi Shmuel Archevolti, he resolves the difficulty concluding that Avraham, the crier, so identifies with his dead wife, the one he is crying over, that they become united as one.
Rav Aryeh Levin, the 20th century Tzadik of Jerusalem once took his wife to the doctor for treatment of a leg ailment. “What is the problem,” asked the doctor. “Our knee is hurting us,” said Rav Aryeh.
Dear friends, this is the kind of unity—of empathy that sees oneself and one’s loved ones as a single body—that we are seeing here in Israel. There is a level of identification with our national trauma that one must experience to believe. When you ask us how we are, we are so appreciative of your concern. But know that we really can’t answer your question. Our moods swing from anger, to sorrow, to despair, to concern… Our ability to concentrate is deeply compromised. We contribute as we can, when we can, and we try not to get too depressed. We exist in an ongoing state of national mourning.
Please keep praying with us, requesting or demanding of God that He guard and protect those defending our Land, that He return to the bosom of their families all of our captives, and that He heal all those wounded and injured in soul and body, including the non-combatant residents of Gaza.
And know also that we are strong, with an unshakable belief that with God leading us into battle, we will prevail. And our ultimate victory will belong to all of us, here in Israel and to the defenders and lovers of Israel, Jews and non-Jews alike, wherever they may be.
B’yedidut. Am Yisrael Chai!