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What can you do to help Israel?
June 8th, 2001
Did you know that since the Mitchell Commission issued its call for a unilateral cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian Authority three weeks ago, bombs and shootings have continued to kill, maim and wound people almost every day in Israel?
As time goes on and there seems to be no end in sight to the terrible situation in which Israel finds itself, my heart goes out to my brothers and sisters who do not know what the next moment will bring.
Please understand that when I cry for “my brothers and sisters” I do not wish harm on anyone. There should be no bloodshed at all.
But I cannot help it when my heart goes out to my people — the Jewish people, who are my family. They are innocent. They hold no swords or guns or stones.
In the past, people picked themselves up and went to fight in a war. Today there is no official front on which to fight. All of Israel is the front.
In this situation, many of us feel helpless and ask, “What can I do about the situation in Israel?”
Although we have plenty to tell the politicians, the military and all the other major players, many of us still feel powerless in the realm of politics and wonder what we should do besides sit and read bad news in the papers.
There is something we can all do that will help. We can do a mitzvah on behalf of the people in Israel. Yes, a mitzvah! An act commanded by G-d to the Jewish people.
The mitzvahs are G-d’s instruments through which He sends His blessings. They have His effects. And some mitzvahs have the effect of protection, lengthening one’s life and offering of good days.
We need to know that the Jewish nation is not a conglomerate of individuals. We are one whole with many faces. Whether you are a professor in Haifa or a settler in the territories, Russian or American, Orthodox, Reform or unaffiliated, you share in the actions and destiny of all other Jews.
Our enemies couldn’t make this point any louder for us: They tell us that if one Jew is to blame for what is going on right now, then all of us are to blame. This works the other way as well, even more forcefully: When one Jew does good, all of us are uplifted. The Jewish people are like one body consisting of many parts and limbs. What happens to one affects us all, and a good deed of one Jew merits all of the Jewish people.
A miraculous nation
Remember, this is the Jewish nation, a miraculous nation. We have never survived by natural means, but by a succession of unpredictable miracles. When was the last time in history the Jewish people appeared to be a viable venture, capable of lasting another century?
Our survival was never a matter of having the right treaties, friends, economic or military strategy. When all looked secure and stable in the time of Esther, we were threatened with annihilation. When it looked impossible to the Maccabees, we emerged victorious.
So the pattern — or lack of it — continued throughout the ages. Playing the game as well as Egyptians or Persians or Romans or Spaniards or Poles or Germans never helped much. Yet while empires crumble into history, we are still here, alive and invincible as ever.
That is not to say that we mustn’t fight for our survival or that we should avoid politics altogether. Esther played politics and the Maccabees fought.
But they didn’t rely on those things. They saw them only as an adjunct to a higher strategy. They knew that the real cards lie not in the hands of warriors or kings, but in the hands of the One Who spoke and the world came into being.
In situations similar to ours, the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of blessed memory, taught (based on the teachings of the Torah, Talmud and Midrash) that certain mitzvahs have the powerful effect of protecting Jews from their enemies.
The Rebbe pointed to the Talmud, which states that tefillin cause fear upon the nations of the world and reverence before a Jew; mezuzahs are to help in the protection of the Jewish people in and outside the home; and that tzedakah saves lives. For G-d said, “You brought life to the poor, I shall offer you life.”
In addition to these mitzvahs, you can also add a special chapter of psalms to your daily prayer (suggested psalms: 20, 22, 100 and 150); and try to remember other mitzvahs such as lighting Sabbath candles on Friday evening.
You can perform these mitzvahs whether you wish to identify with our family — your brothers and sisters in Israel — or whether you think you can actually help them, help yourself and help Jews wherever they may be.
Join with the many thousands who are already doing so. It is not hard to give additional tzedakah by dropping a few coins each day in a charity box. By doing even that, you can unite with Jews the world over. Unite with your ancestors. Unite with the present and the future of the Jewish people. Unite with yourself. And unite with G-d.
Remember, our Sages have said: “One deed is better than a thousand sighs.”
May the Merciful One listen to our prayers and look on our deeds and respond to our cries and protect all of the Jewish people in Israel and the world and may the Master of Peace bring peace to the entire world.
Rabbi Israel Shmotkin is executive director of Lubavitch of Wisconsin.