By Yochanan Gordon
Despite holding ever so firmly to the last vestige of hope that Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali would be safely returned, we were met with heartrending news earlier this week, which quashed any sense of surreal optimism that remained. With the tragedy as raw as it is, the mourning and healing process has yet to begin.
It would be hard to overstate the immense sense of brotherhood and unity that has been felt these past couple of weeks. #BringBackOurBoys signs were displayed by Jews and gentiles the world over as if uniting under a common cause—to overcome the sources of evil in today’s world. In the words of Rachel Frenkel, the mother of Hakadosh Naftali Frenkel, if the abductors and murderers had been aware of the unity that their actions would cause, they would never have taken the boys in the first place. Many have noted our ability to bond together in tough times. The refrain that we have heard time and again, through situations as these, is that if only we could learn to stick together under normal circumstances, we wouldn’t need these tragedies to serve as a reminder. If we are capable of overlooking our external differences in times like these, then the precedent has been set for always.
I just returned from the Ohel of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, ob’m, commemorating the 20th year since his passing. Jews congregated in droves from every corner of the globe to pay homage to this great leader, in whose humble office Jews and non-Jews from the most starkly diverse cross-section of people converged to receive his holy counsel and blessings for revealed goodness in their lives and the lives of their dear ones. It’s not happenstance that the Rebbe is one of those leaders who were capable of bridging the divide between people regardless of their religious observance. To the Rebbe, all Jews were Divine and all non-Jews were here for a sacred purpose. If there is one thing that we could learn from him and his emissaries who inculcate his messages on a daily basis, it is to see people through the Divine prism and deserving of the greatest respect that Divine messengers deserve.
From the outset of his ascension to the leadership of Chabad and throughout his tenure of 44 years, the Rebbe imparted that our goal is to unite Jews through Torah and mitzvos and in so doing to bring about our ultimate redemption. Every Jew that he encountered was seen as possessing a spark of G‑d Al‑mighty—which the Tanya teaches is the makeup of every Jewish soul. We need to train ourselves to view people for their core and not from a superficial vantage point. Then we could say that we learned something from all this and that we do not need such wake-up calls in the future.
I feel that the juxtaposition of the discovery of the bodies and the 3rd of Tammuz holds a lesson for members of the Israeli government who confided regularly with the Rebbe to align their political decisions with da’as Torah. David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin, Levi Eshkol, Yitzchak Rabin, Golda Meir, Arik Sharon, Bibi Netanyahu, and many other Israeli politicians and military experts had developed close working ties with the Rebbe, but despite his regular prodding, guidance, and encouragement, many of them, in times of great pressure, acquiesced to demands with the weight of the world bearing down on their shoulders. I am not passing judgment on them and I am in no way envious of their positions and the pressures that come along with them. But as the Rebbe was wont to say, if G‑d gave them this position, He gave them the ability to overcome the pressures that come with the position as well.
Having commenced his leadership of Chabad in 1951, only three years after the founding of the State of Israel, the Rebbe devoted hundreds of sermons to what he referred to as shleimus ha’Aretz. Before Mr. Begin held meetings with President Carter in the White House, he famously made a stop at 770 Eastern Parkway to seek guidance from the Rebbe and his blessings that all should go well. Ultimately, those meetings led to the signing of the peace accords at Camp David, which the Rebbe declared a massive threat to the existence of Israel in true peace and harmony.
Despite the celebratory status of Arik Sharon as a fearless military leader in Israel’s IDF and protector of the land of Israel, his rise to the position of prime minister, against the written advice of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, led to the expulsion of the residents of Gush Katif, forcing thousands of Jews into homelessness, all in the name of what he saw as the only means of achieving peace. It is clear that the Rebbe would have protested such a move, which ultimately led to an escalation in Arab terror and further demands that Israel revert to the pre-1967 borders, which thankfully has yet to be considered.
Recently, Bibi Netanyahu famously quoted the Rebbe’s instructions to him many years prior when he first met the Rebbe at a Simchas Torah farbrengen at 770 Eastern Parkway. In the Rebbe’s words to Netanyahu, “You’ll be serving in a house of many lies.” The prime minister repeated this quote to UN delegates. “Remember that even in the darkest place, the light of a single candle can be seen far and wide.” There is no doubt in my mind that Bibi Netanyahu understands the responsibility that is on his shoulders. I believe as well that in his heart of hearts he considers the Rebbe’s words his guiding light. However, he has to become one with those words and internalize them in order to be able to put them into action when it really counts. Unfortunately, despite all his courage and all that he has done to promote peace, Bibi has also wavered and stuttered in crucial times. The world is waiting for him to step up to the plate and act on behalf of Israel and its peace-loving but wary citizens who have endured terror and bloodshed for too long.
The way things are looking now, we have our work cut out for us in Israel. It’s clear that the more we negotiate with these terrorists, the less they respect us and the more they prey on us. There is no way for a man of the civilized Western world to comprehend the ruthlessness of the bloodthirsty people of Islam. Israel will have to “man up” and act in its own best interests, even if it means doing so unilaterally, because only Israel knows the true score.
#BringBackOurBoys was a catchy slogan that inspired an extraordinary sense of unity among Jews everywhere no matter their persuasion. It might take some time, but in the final redemption our boys will be back. In the meantime, we have to do what we can to perpetuate the feelings and sentiments of brotherhood that kept our sense of hope alive and inspired the greater world to agonize over the plight of these three martyrs—following it all the way until their bodies were discovered. But, for now, we must turn heavenward and implore G‑d Al‑mighty that we have endured enough suffering and express how we yearn for His warm and loving embrace, the day of our redemption, and the era of global healing after thousands of years in exile. If you think a social-media campaign will help gather the masses, you could call it #BringBackOurHome. v
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