A note on the horrific situation in Israel from the J Street Rabbinic and Cantorial Cabinet Co-chairs

October 7, 2023

We have made the rare decision to break Shabbat and the holiday observance in light of the horrifying situation in Israel.

It is heartbreaking and frightening to comprehend the ongoing violence Israelis are facing right now and the danger innocent Palestinians caught in the crossfire are also encountering.

So many of us have family, friends, and colleagues who have been directly affected – including some who have tragically lost their lives at the brutal hands of Hamas terrorists, some who have been taken as hostages, and others who are now being called up as reservists to defend their country.

The fact that such terror is taking place during Shabbat, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah – what should be joyous and peaceful occasions for our Jewish community – makes such tragedy weigh even heavier on our hearts.

On Shemini Atzeret, we pray both for rain and say Yizkor, remembering those whom we have lost. To call for rain, a source of life, seems most appropriate at this moment.

Indeed, let the rain fall.

Let it extinguish the fires, the plumes of smoke, and the hatred that is burning our beloved Israel.

Let the rain fall.

Let it wash away the tears and spilled blood staining the streets in Israel and in Gaza.

Let the rain fall.

Let it fill our rivers and streams and fortify us with hope, with peace.

Many of us will find it difficult to lead our communities in Simchat Torah celebrations given these awful moments of lost life, injury, and fear – similar to Diaspora responses during Sukkot and Simchat Torah 50 years ago while the Yom Kippur War raged on.

Simchat Torah marks the end of our reading of the Torah and the beginning of a new cycle. At this difficult time, may we find comfort surrounded by others as we remember the lives lost too soon. And let us pray that such tragic endings may give birth to new beginnings and possibilities of peace for all Israelis and Palestinians.