Judaism is about Sanctifying Life
Every week we read the Torah, for the rabbis believe that for each week some pertinent, relevant message is hidden in its words. This week’s Torah reading couldn’t have been more timely. Describing the sins of the generation of the flood. The Torah says (Genesis 6):
וַתִּשָּׁחֵ֥ת הָאָ֖רֶץ לִפְנֵ֣י הָֽאֱלֹהִ֑ים וַתִּמָּלֵ֥א הָאָ֖רֶץ חָמָֽס
“The earth became corrupt before God; the earth was filled with lawlessness.”
The Hebrew word for lawlessness is Hamas. Is it a coincidence that Hamas, the exact name of the terrorist organization that has attacked us for the last twenty years and is currently holding our people hostage, is alluded to in the Torah?
Hamas is an acronym for Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya – Islamic Resistance Movement. In Arabic, the acronym is also a word meaning zeal. In Hebrew, though, it’s a zeal for lawlessness or violence.
In Noah’s time, there was no mention of a government or civil order. The rich and powerful have absolute rule. Rabbi Meir Soloveitchik compares it to a time described by Thomas Hobbes in his work “Leviathan”:
Where every man is enemy to every man, . . . wherein men live without other security, than what their strength, . . . which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.
Considering Hamas’ use of its people as shields, its appropriation of charitable funds for military use, its ruthless attack on civilians, and its general disregard for Gaza’s citizenry, is Hobbes’ description not fitting?
In contrast, Judaism venerates life. The Torah has numerous prohibitions, but nearly all are canceled if it comes down to saving a life. In fact, the Talmud compares saving one life to saving the whole world.
Just last week, one Hamas official derided us for our devotion to the living; they view it as our weakness:
“The Israelis are known to love life. We, on the other hand, sacrifice ourselves. We consider our dead to be martyrs.”
Indeed, our sanctification of life may be our weakness, but what Hamas misunderstands is that it is also our source of resiliency and unity.
Just this past Monday, Maor and Gal Peretz were set to get married. With war at hand, the wedding hall they had booked was no longer an option, and a hurried wedding was put together in the backyard of their neighbor, Yossi Zer. It didn’t matter to Yossi that six of his eight children were called to battle; he viewed it as an honor to accommodate a bride and groom. Maor had already reported for duty, but his commander let him out for the wedding. “He asked, and they said sure, just come back the next day.”
Then, the groom’s mother was getting her hair done in nearby Kfar Adumim when she told her hairdresser about the wedding. He told her he would get Ishay Ribo to perform. Ishay Ribo is the most popular singer in Israel – it’s the equivalent of Taylor Swift dropping by for a song or two.
Ribo sang the seder song, usually sung in defiance and joy over wine: “For in every generation they rise up to destroy us, and God saves us from their hands.”
Thus, our love of life serves as a source of our strength.
One of Hamas’ most heinous atrocities was the genocide committed in what was the lush and nurturing community of Kibbutz Be’eri. This week, in the shadow of the sirens and rockets, a sweet baby girl was born in the South. The parents chose to call her Be’eri. They thereby ensured that the lives of those lost to our enemies would be preserved and honored through life once more.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks summarized Jewish life in five words, “Judaism is about sanctifying life.” It’s our weakness but also our strength. It’s the reason we survived exile and persecution for the past two thousand years. It’s why we’ll overcome Hamas now.
P.S. Please show your solidarity with our community and your support for Israel by attending a neighborhood concert featuring two amazing artists, Neshama Carlebach and Noah Aaronson. It’s Saturday night, 7:30 PM at North Shore Synagogue. All funds will go to the UJA’s support for Israel.
Click here to purchase tickets:
Am Yisrael Chai!