The only good thing about a nightmare is that it ends when we wake up. On 18 November, we woke to a nightmare. The horrific terror attack in a shul in Har Nof has left families bereft, a community reeling from shock and Jews around the world in tremendous pain.
Acts of murder and terror are evil wherever they take place. The fact that this one took place against defenceless individuals while they were praying wrapped in their tallitot and their tefillin makes this all the more horrific.
This was no ‘mere’ terror attack, this was a pogrom reminiscent of Russia at the turn of the last century, of the sort we thought we had left behind when we returned to Zion.
Of course we must condemn this attack unequivocally, but unfortunately the people who need to hear it most are neither listening to us nor reading these lines and therefore condemnation is not enough.
This horrific event ushered in the winter, the coldest, darkest time of year. While it is relatively easy to appreciate God when times are good, it is true that when we are in the night-time of life He feels distant. And when those winter days seem to be unending, we encounter Chanukah, the festival of light.
We light the dark evenings with our small candles as if to say: “Our light will always prevail.” As the medieval Torah commentator Rabbeinu Bachaye says, “a little bit of light dispels much darkness”.
On Chanukah, we add one more candle each night. We are responding to darkness with light, we continue to build and grow, we respond to death by adding life.
To do otherwise would be to concede defeat to our enemies who seek our destruction. We are a nation that is in perpetual motion. It is highly significant and poignant that by the evening after the attack the shul was open for services as usual and a brit milah was celebrated there the very next day in an act of defiance to those seeking our destruction.
We are a strong and resilient people, who have faced every type of adversity over the millennia. Our survival defies all the laws of history, sociology and anthropology.
Just like our ancestors in Egypt, “as much as they would afflict them, so they would increase and spread out”.
May Hashem comfort all those who have lost loved ones, and may the time come soon when these tragedies no longer occur.
• Rabbi Jonny Roodyn, Aish UK