With a heavy heart I can’t help but think of the following verse from this week’s Torah portion, Balak:
“How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel!
As for me, O God abounding in grace,
I enter your house to worship with awe in Your sacred place.
To You, Eternal One, goes my prayer: may this be a time of your favor.
In Your great love, O God, answer me with Your saving truth.”
I find myself often thinking about this verse when I see the countless acts of chesed, or kindness, and tzedekah, charity, that our community does day in, day out, week in, week out, year in, year out. And this happens in Jewish community after Jewish community around the world.
My own rabbi, Shmuel Goldin of Congregation Ahavath Torah, and I happen to have discussed this concept recently, and I must tell you I experienced it myself growing up. It taught me so much. In fact, it changed my life.
On our recent KMF Kilometers for Koby hike in the Golan in Israel, I had a powerful experience. It was another “How lovely are your tents, O Jacob” moment. Here is what I wrote to describe it:
“Once we made it down Har Bental we continued our hike through some beautiful fields and valleys, and at one valley we saw acres of vineyards that are used to produce some of Israel’s finest award-winning wines. There, we heard an incredible story from 1967.
“It seems when Israel was victorious in the miraculous 1967 Six Day War and captured the Golan Heights, soldiers came to this particular spot and found a mock kibbutz set-up with various rooms and locations all marked in Hebrew. This was used by the PLO to practice training for terror attacks against kibbutzim in the northern part of Israel. This even included practice for raiding the children’s area of a kibbutz.
“Israel tore down this despicable place and planted vineyards. We plant, seed, grow, create, and with God’s help bring blessings. Our enemies sadly focus on destruction.”
As I think about Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal z”l and their families (and really all of us) and sit here with tears in my eyes, I have two competing emotions and thoughts.
First, I wonder what kind of people kidnap and murder children and teenagers, and how many Palestinians celebrate this despicable crime. This part of their society – the part based on hate, intolerance, violence, and murder – must transform. Only then can we achieve our dreams of peace.
Secondly, the outpouring of extra prayers, love, acts of kindness, mitzvot, and unity – especially unity – by Am Yisrael, the national of Israel, during this time brings light into a seemingly dark world.
We can’t let go of this. In fact we need to do more of these positive acts and work harder to bring the Jewish people together. The Jewish people represent hope, love, faith, and kindness, and our enemies are the exact opposite. The world must understand this. Bilam did when prophesized “Mah tovu ohaleyhu Yaacov…” “How goodly are your tents, O Jacob.”
Note the last part of this sentence – only in great love can we find God’s truth.