Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

Prayer and Unity: The Quintessentially Jewish Response to a Kidnapping

For most Israelis, personally redeeming the three abducted teens is a distant dream. Instead, they support the boys and their families with an unofficial formula of prayer and unity.

By: Deborah Fineblum

Published: June 27th, 2014 in News » Israel

Prayer may be the most intimate of all the mitzvot—and that has “nothing to do with halacha (Jewish law),” according to Rabbi Benjamin Lau, head of the Israel Democracy Institute’s Human Rights and Judaism in Action Project and leader of Jerusalem’s Ramban Synagogue.

“Especially in times of crisis, we are talking about the language of he soul, about using the words of the tefillah (prayer) to express our deepest feelings, our truest selves,” says Lau.

Since news of the kidnapping emerged, countless congregations across Israel have added psalms to their daily and Shabbat services. Psalm 121 states, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains,” asking where help will come from—and the psalm’s answer is, from God. “We go to the roots of our ourselves, and we ask Him to intervene,” Lau says.

Unity

Katz, the musician, says he was visiting the family of abducted teen Naftali Frenkel when the topic of Jewish unity came up in conversation. “What [the Frenkels] wanted to talk about was their vision for bringing the Jewish people together,” says Katz. “And they told me that they feel every bit of our support.”

For Katz, music stands to serve as a conduit for both prayer and unity. “Our duty is to raise up cry after cry, plea after plea,” he says. “In this way we can learn once and for all that we are not primarily a religion but a nation and a family. All you have to do is look at their pictures to realize that these are our boys too.”

“The main thing we can do now is overcoming all the divisiveness,” says Rav Abraham Sutton, an Israeli author and teacher based in Kiryat Ye’arim, a town near Jerusalem. “These boys are all of us. We are supposed to feel their pain. We are supposed to send them strength and encouragement. When we say them together, they bring us together and lift us up above the petty and the trivial.”

Rabbi Neuwirth says, “After the boys are back home we have to remember this lesson of a united Jewish people. Then we won’t need other painful lessons to remind us that we are one people and what unites us is so much bigger than what divides us.”

Rav Sutton, meanwhile, insists that prayer and unity must be supplemented “with our inner work, fueled by a true desire and yearning for redemption.” Neuwirth agrees.

“Prayer and solidarity? Yes, but they’re not enough. You have to become a better person than you ever were before. Otherwise God is not going to listen to our prayers or be impressed with our unity,” he says.

Rabbi Beals suggests that one way to accomplish this is incorporating the boys into the happiest time of the Jewish week—when Shabbat enters our homes and our hearts.

“As we bless our own children at the Shabbat table on Friday night, Jews everywhere are also blessing those three boys,” Beals says. “They are a part of our family, as we are all part of the family of Israel.”

Reprinted from JNS.org

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