Rabbi Goldschmidt

Simchat Torah under fire

The very first lesson in Rabbinical work is:

No matter whatever you decide, there will be those who approve of your
decision and those who do not.

On early Saturday afternoon as information regarding the perilous
state in Israel began to filter through to our community through both
official channels and word of mouth the difficult question came to me:

Do we continue with Simchat Torah, with the dancing and singing and
enjoyment of the Festival or do we need to show sombre solidarity with
our people based on the situation?

I granted myself time to think and I went for a very walk around in
Manila and considered the various options: No matter what course of
action I would undertake, any decision would be considered incorrect
in the eyes of some.

With this very much in mind, my decision was emphatically to continue
on with the festival, to dance, sing and celebrate with our Torah
despite the information of attacks against us at home.

After the festival ended and we made Havdalah I went to check my
messages and understood immediately that the gravity of the situation
was not the same as my original estimate:

Murders, rapes, torture, beheadings and hostages taken – entire
villages of unarmed civilians obliterated.

Now there is that other lesson for me:

No matter whatever you decide, there will always be a part of yourself
that approves and part that does not.

Since returning back to connectivity after the festival I have taken
dozens of some of the most terrible phone calls of my life, heard
stories of the dead, the missing and those left behind in terrible
pain to cope and process their loss.

I am miles away from Israel and feel utterly powerless to assist
practically, instead of giving into this downward spiral we
immediately we organised a special prayer service here in the
Philippines and began spreading awareness of the terrible reality of
the situation: as I spoke and recited Tehillim at the service I felt
that my voice had joined a chorus of my people around the world , all
deeply affected and seeking answers as well.

The truth has finally been laid bare:
Terrorists who were regularly painted as Freedom fighters in the
western media for their “just cause” were in reality always intent on
committing wholesale slaughter of Jews, although this evil was now
masked in the “liberation” of a people, it was an all too familiar,
medieval antisemitism.

Hamas may be democratically elected and considered by many to be the
popular voice of the Palestinian people, however their sole aim is the
furthering of both a religious and political Jihad and committing acts
of heinous violence and terrorism.

The ancient hatred of Israel and the Jewish people never faded away,
it only ever metamorphosed and changed form to be present and
“current” in each age and situation – the level of sheer hatred and
intense violence seen on Saturday is something that indeed belongs in
another century; bodies disfigured, children decapitated, women
violated and subsequently executed – for Jews this is a familiar part
of our cultural DNA and an essential element of our national identity:
we remember the Romans, Greeks, Babylonians, Persians , Cossacks,
Nazis and all the others who have come against us.

My decision to dance with the Torah is in mind of these incredible
difficulties and evil our people have faced over millennia, we have
faced them all and despite heavy prices and terrible lessons we have
seen them come and pass away like straw.

God’s Torah is eternal just as we as His nation is: although wars are
fought with weapons, they are ultimately won through ideas and values:

Our striving for peace and dignity cannot be extinguished, our love of
humanity cannot be snuffed out, and our love of God and justice cannot
be replaced.

Our decision must be to stand together united without all of the
possible division and fight to be part of the light in a world filled
with darkness.

Am Yisrael Chai!

Rabbi Jonathan Goldschmidt 2023 ©