Sivan Rahav-Meir
Sivan Rahav-Meir Eyal ben Ayish

* Translation by Yehoshua Siskin (

"Shalom Sivan, here's a picture of grandma Shulamit Toledano, together with her grandsons, Neriya and Uri Tzadok. Two months ago grandma Shula became a widow after her dear husband Zion passed away from the coronavirus. Last week she tested positive for the virus and the thought that she would have to isolate alone was deeply concerning. But then both Neriya and Uri tested positive as well. Immediately, without any hesitation, they declared that they would isolate together with grandma Shula.

And now they are together during the isolation period, alone and yet together. Cooking, playing, reading, talking, recalling pleasant memories, and on Shabbat they made kiddush and had a wonderful dinner together. Let no one disparage our youth for being apathetic, having become addicted to digital devices during the pandemic. Here are two kids who became addicted to grandma.

Savta Shula and grandsons
Savta Shula and grandsons Courtesy

At the climax of this week's Torah portion, after the splitting of the Red Sea, the children of Israel sing 'Song of the Sea.' The following words comprise one of the verses of the song: 'This is my God and I will glorify Him; the God of my father, and I will exalt Him.'

Our commentators explain that this verse perfectly expresses an appropriate relationship with God. On the one hand, 'This is my God and I will glorify Him'; each individual must cultivate a personal faith, not merely copy and paste, robotically, some ready-made version of faith. On the other hand,

'This is the God of my father, and I will exalt Him'; it is important to base our faith on that of our fathers, of previous generations, to learn from their experience and to continue along their path.

It is not difficult to understand why, this week, we became so attached to this verse."


As the Toledano grandmother and grandsons have shown, this pandemic can be directed to teach our children how a family can find the inner strength to react to crises with love and caring. It also provides an object lesson in what leadership of all kinds - family, rabbininate, politics - entails..

These are times in which our political leadership is criticized by many on a regular basis. This evening - the 10th of Shevat - presents an opportunity to be reminded that there is another type of leadership which is just as important as the political type, if not more so. 71 years ago this evening, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson became the "Lubavitcher Rebbe" and the leader of the Chabad Chasidic movement. Here are three thoughts prompted by the anniversary of the Rebbe's assumption of leadership:

1. Leadership during a crisis can bring about a revolution. The Lubavitcher Rebbe assumed leadership in 1950. It was a time when the Jewish people were reeling from the Holocaust, Jewish practice in Communist Russia had been outlawed, and Jewish observance in America was signficiantly diminshed due to the powerful attraction of glitzy American culture. It was precisely within this profoundly challenging environment that the Rebbe began a revolution:

Judaism would not be passive and defensive. Judaism would not only be concerned with conserving the world of the past, but it would also be activist and inspirational looking to the future. Judaism had much to say and its voice needed to be heard.

2. Leadership creates more leaders. The Lubavitcher Rebbe is famously described as someone who did not wish to create more Chasidim, but rather more leaders. Each Jew was encouraged to see himself as a shaliach, an emissary, a leader, with responsibility for every other Jew. If there was no Jewish kindergarten in Morocco, if there was no mikveh in Colorado, if kosher food was needed in New Zealand, if a Jew was arrested in Thailand - it is our responsibility to rectify the situation, to demonstrate concern for every other Jew, young or old, near or far away. These days are appropriate for adopting this approach:

We can be there for a neighbor who tested positive for the coronavirus, or lend a hand to a frustrated business owner.

3. Leadership begins at home. With all due respect to changing the world, leadership begins with self-control and is measured, first of all, in our relationships with family and our immediate surroundings. It's not easy, but between waiting in another long line and one more enervating stretch of isolation with the kids, we can still choose to act in positive ways, not as unfortunate, exhausted victims of circumstance, but as leaders.