Vayishlach/Vayeshev & Chanukah/Miketz

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My Heart is in the East

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

In the past, I would sit down to write this newsletter message and look for a poignant life message in the Torah reading of the week to share with others. Since the brutal, barbaric terror attack on October 7th, the subsequent war, and the global reaction, I am constantly thinking about Eretz Yisrael. My emotions fluctuate between sadness, deep pain, rage, fear, and frustration on the one hand, and hope, faith, deep connection, and love on the other hand. My heart and thoughts are constantly with our brethren in Eretz Yisrael. The words written almost a thousand years ago in Spain by Rabbi Yehudah Halevi “My Heart is in the East, but I am on the edge of the West” ring through my mind. I can no longer focus on a generic, meaningful message because my heart is in the East.

It is not just Eretz Yisrael that has been brought to the forefront of my mind, but also the Jewish people throughout the world. Additionally, my feeling of unity and belonging to the Jewish people, feelings about those I agree with philosophically and politically, and about those with whom I deeply disagree, have been brought to the forefront of my mind. Rabbi Osher Weiss quotes his Rebbe’s (Klausenberg Rebbe) explanation of the following strange verse in Psalms: “The Lord will count in the writing of the peoples…” (Pslams 87:6) The Klausenberger explained that the prosecuting angel in heaven prosecutes the Jewish people and says, “Are your people really Jews? They are not observing Shabbat, and not keeping the Mitzvoth.” Hashem responds: “Let us see if the nations of the world think they are Jews (what they write about the Jews).” The Klausenberger Rebbe (who lost his wife and eleven children in the Holocaust) goes on to explain that in the Holocaust, the Germans counted all of us as Jews, irrespective of our political ideologies and level of observance. Hashem says to the Satan: “They are all one, they are all Jews.” On October 7th there were no distinctions made.

As I watched the soldiers of the IDF welcoming in Shabbat with Lecha Dodi, religious and secular soldiers together, my heart was warmed, and I felt some comfort. Let us all return to Hashem together so that we no longer need the nations of the world to remind us that we are one united soul.