Israel News

How Difficult Times Connect Jews to Judaism

The last weeks and months have seen a generation-defining event with brutal massacres on Jews in Israel and unrest erupting against Jews abroad. Yet, against our enemies wishes this has only brought the global Jewish community together in ways never seen before.

 Jews have always shown their best sides in times of strife, and our globalized world has taken Jewish unity to a new level. Our Sages said 

The Jewish People are like the olive: Just as the olive only yields its oil after it has been crushed and squeezed, so too the Jewish People reveal their true stature under pressure.

In the face of such adversity, the Jewish people have historically demonstrated remarkable resilience and unity, and in the wake of this tragedy, they have once again found ways to connect and support one another emotionally and spiritually.

Tefillin / Mezuzah

Tefillin is a daily mitzvah involving boxes with Torah verses strapped to one’s arm and forehead, that is incumbent on men past bar mitzvah, similar to how a mezuzah is a scroll for a doorway. They might seem unrelated, but they are both mentioned together in the Torah for God’s protection. A large effort is going on, with organizations encouraging Jews to make sure they are being used, as specifically mentioned in the Shema:

 

Place these words of Mine upon your heart and upon your soul, and bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall be for a reminder between your eyes… And you shall inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates - so that your days and the days of your children may be prolonged on the land which the L-rd swore to your fathers to give to them for as long as the heavens are above the earth.

These are not protective objects to be thought of as an idol, but that if one uses everything—body soul and home—to direct its uses for holy purposes, God will reward that, with tefillin and mezuzahs as the embodiment of that. They serve as a reminder of the eternal bond between the Jewish people and their faith, offering strength and purpose during challenging times.

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Candles
Jewish woman prays over lit Shabbat candles, covering her face with her hands. Nearby lies a religious prayer book

Lighting candles as a way to take in Shabbat and other holidays is not just iconic and beautiful, but carries a tremendous significance. Many women in particular have long connected to lighting Shabbat candles, with the Oral Torah mentioning it as one of three primary mitzvahs for women. Similarly important to women, as Hanukkah approaches, adding light into the darkest time of the year is important, as Jews connect to the self-defiant spirit of the Maccabees. Just as how many Jewish people more broadly have been connecting to Shabbat more broadly, lighting candles can be a great way to ground oneself and take stock of the week that just passed.

Additionally, people use candles during vigils that have happened around the world, and regularly in honor of the victims of antisemitic violence, while putting the name out in front.

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Jewish Symbols

Likewise, people in Israel and especially in the diasporas are identifying with the wider Jewish community by donning notable Jewish symbols, like the Star of David, the Temple Menorah, the Dove, and showing off their Hebrew names proudly. This commonly takes the form of necklaces and bracelets, but nowadays T-shirts are an increasingly popular way to show off a message of pride and unity. The most important thing these days is that people should not feel they are alone, which they definitely are not.

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Tehillim/Prayer
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Saying Tehillim (psalms), praying with a siddur, and saying Shema have always been some of the first choices how Jews channel their prayers for themselves, and the health, security, and justice. Tehillim, and certain parts of the Mishne (primary text of the oral law) are associated with health and protection. Of course, there is nothing wrong with a prayer from the heart, but many find it comforting to connect to the words of Torah, and the thousands of years of history it carries. 

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Shabbat Rest
shabbat image. challah bread, shabbat wine and candelas on woode

Shabbat is one of the most important mitzvot (commandments) in all of Judaism, not only in its depth of Shabbat-specific rituals and restrictions, but in that it uniquely removes any distractions that can be wearying and distressing. It acts as a way to humble and reorient one’s thoughts away from things like working, social media, responsibilities around the house etc, instead focusing on things like relaxation, introspection, family-time, and prayer. The best way to take a step back from the news and other stresses in the traditional way, that many are turning to now.

Many people who had never done so before are making a point to light candles, say kiddush, and bake challah for Friday night, or say havdallah as Shabbat ends on Saturday.

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Tzedakah / Fund-Raising
Hand putting Coins in glass jar for giving and donation concept

One powerful way in which the Jewish community has come together is through various charitable drives to give tzedakah, a Hebrew term for charity and righteous giving. These initiatives have aimed to provide financial support to the families of the victims and those affected by the massacres, helping them cope with the immediate financial burdens and providing a sense of solidarity. It is a mitzvah that inherently creates connections between those in need and those with means to give their money, time, food, or whatever else is required.

Across the world, Jewish communities have organized various initiatives to support the victims and their families. Fundraising drives have been launched to provide financial assistance, and volunteers have offered emotional support and practical help. These efforts have shown the power of global Jewish solidarity, transcending geographical boundaries to provide aid and comfort.

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A Time for Action

These are just some of the most popular ways being have connecting to their Judaism. There is no shortage of ways the Jewish people will find to come together, connecting to their roots, and each other. 

Jews of every sort of background have taken it upon themselves to do more spiritually to connect to the history of the Jewish people, and to do mitzvahs for a safety and positive outcomes in Israel. 

The emotional and spiritual impact of these collective actions cannot be overstated. In the face of tragedy, the Jewish community has found solace and strength in coming together. 

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