Sunday, October 23, 2011
Gilad is Home.
I felt a tear forming as I watched a clip of a young man in army fatigues jump into salute to his commander in chief, when in truth it is us, each and every one - from the prime minister down, who are saluting him, young Gilad.
Like me, I’m sure you also felt an urge to reach into the computer screen and hug the shy and unassuming hero who suffered in misery so that we could live in security.
And together with that, reading the Prime Minister’s letter to the family of the victims of the terrorists being freed – and hearing the haunting promises and calls in Gaza of “the next Gilad” G-d save us, I feel the pain and hurt of the past, and the palpable worry for the future, of a nation still very wounded.
Is our joy complete? No. The practical implications of the price paid (but please G-d should not have to be paid further) is palpable.
Yet, words like “worth” “value” and “proportionate” just seem out of place in the discussions around possibly bringing a young boy home to his mother and father, but these are the tragic realities in the life of Israel today.
It seems obvious though, that despite the conflict of feelings and emotion, everyone, yes everyone from the close-knit members of the Shalit family (and aren’t we all a part of their family today), to the cynical journalists in Europe, to the murderous bloodsuckers in the Middle East - everyone realized something profound about the Jewish People today; that we are one.
If there is just one thread missing in the global tapestry of our people, we are incomplete. Whether right or wrong, fair or unjust, there is no one that will deny that there is nothing more valuable and precious to the Jewish people, than the brother or sister next to them.
In the late 1940’s two young rabbis were sent by The Rebbe, of righteous memory, to visit Jewish people across the metro Chicago area.
On their return they gave the Rebbe a report of their many visits and shared an incident where they were challenged by one of their hosts, for their reason of coming to visit. When they had told him that they weren’t coming to collect money he asked “then what for?”
“Do you know what a Sofer is?” the rabbi asked the middle aged traditional but secular Chicago businessman. “Of course, the person who writes Torahs” he answered.
“So,” the rabbi explained “a Torah that is missing even one letter is incomplete and must be repaired. And to ensure that all of the letters are complete, there were Sofers who would travel around from village to village and check the Torahs to repair and protect every last letter of the Torah.
The Jewish People are compared to a Torah and when even one letter is missing, when even one soul strays from the community, the entire nation is fractured. We were sent by the Rebbe to travel around and visit our fellow people, and repair each “letter” and their connection to the Torah.”
On return to New York they shared the jist of the exchange with the Rebbe who seemed somewhat dissatisfied with the analogy.
“Whereas the Parchment and Ink of Torah are two distinct and possibly separated entities” the Rebbe explained, “the unity of the Jewish People is more accurately comparable to the words engraved on the Tablets. There the stone and the words are one and the same.
The only obstacle is if and when the engraved letter becomes filled with dust. And that is your job to go around and “brush the dust” concealing the beauty of every soul, so that then they can shine once again.”
For over five years, the holy letter of our beloved Gilad ben Aviva was concealed by the dust and grime of a heartless terrorist regime. With thanks to the Almighty G-d, the five years of accumulated dust was swept away, and the radiant pale face of this beautiful “letter in the Torah” will shine once again.
* * *
Faith and hope is what kept Gilad going all these years in isolated captivity. "I always believed there's a chance to be released," he said on Egyptian TV. His body was captured in Gaza but his soul was free, in his own country. "I missed my parents, meet people, get out," he said. He managed to keep his sanity because of the belief that one day his body will also be where his soul has always been.
Clearly nervous and shaking, he voiced no anger. There was no call for revenge or declaration of war. His composure after his five-year ordeal personified the beauty of the Jewish people.
Despite much suffering, Jews never became captive to the hate of their enemies. Regardless of what they endured, they never allowed it to compromise their goodness. Gilad Shalit captured that personality; the enduring battle for peace and compassion. “For all its ways are pleasant and all its paths peaceful."
At the Simchat Torah dancing tomorrow evening (Thursday) all of us will certainly be taking a special moment to dance with the Torah and to celebrate with Gilad reunited with his family and the reunited unity of the Jewish People.
But we – all of us, need you there. We need your letter. Otherwise we’re still not complete…
Please G-d may this window of hope open the gates of mercy and may the merit of Gilad ben Aviva open the way for the ultimate redemption of the Jewish people reunited with the coming of Mashiach and eternal peace in our Holy Land.
Wishing you a Chag Sameach, a truly Happy Holiday and Shabbat Shalom!
Shaul & Esther