A little girl in Aleppo is awaiting an answer
A little girl in Aleppo is awaiting an answer

Today, a convoy with thousands of women and children trying to escape from East Aleppo was brought to a screeching halt — one day after authorities committed to evacuating innocent civilians. As a genocide unfolds in the streets of Aleppo, we are reminded that genocidal dictators are taking note and are learning a very powerful lesson – that they CAN get away with mass murder.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said just three days ago, “Since September, the Security Council has failed to adopt three resolutions that could have enabled a humanitarian truce, evacuation of civilians and the entry of lifesaving aid.” Now what do we do? When the world is too fixated on the latest iPhone or their next vacation destination, the women and children in Aleppo will just have to wait.

In the midst of bombed out cities, houses and schools and carnage strewn on the streets, a little girl with her innocent eyes is asking her protective mother, “Mommy, are we going to survive?” While it is the birthright of each child in Aleppo to be safe, who is going to answer this young girl’s question?

Outside the United Nations building in New York there is a wall bearing the inscription, "They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they learn war anymore."

Perhaps the U.N. should reference this week’s Torah portion about two 13-year-old boys rather than the hallowed prophet, Isaiah.

This week’s Torah portion teaches us that Shimon and Levi are outraged that their sister, Dina, has been violated and kidnapped. So the brothers decimate the entire village of Shechem (modern day’s Nablus) and rescue her. This story is the source for our Jewish tradition that adulthood begins at the age of 13, because Shimon and Levi are referred to as men when they drew their swords to protect their sister.

Each time the Torah is read, it is then hoisted up and shown to entire congregation and everyone sings in unison “Its ways are pleasant ways and all its paths are peace” (Proverbs 3:17). This is the culmination of the entire experience with our Torah. So how could it be that those who are commanded to keep the Torah associate their mandated age for adulthood with a seemingly not so pleasant story.

The answer is that when you have an innocent person who is not politically important and significant to the world’s stage like the little girl in Aleppo, but she is crying out in pain and is trapped in a place where she doesn’t want to be, then our Torah teaches us that being a man means you risk your life to secure her freedom. There was no way to rescue her without taking out the city.

World leaders are very calculating in their responses, yet it isn’t a question about becoming the world’s police, it is a question of doing what is right and protecting innocent lives.

This the measure of a man or woman. They are prepared to go to battle for what is right. When someone is in pain and they have, quite frankly, no political difference to make,

Judaism still says that being a responsible adult means you have to risk your life to answer their sobbing plea for help. That is the lesson and the source for each child in their transition to adulthood during their Bar and Bat Mitzvah. Who will stand up and tell the little girl in Aleppo that they will save her?

We should only have good news for the world,

Rabbi Areyah Kaltmann is Executive Director, Chabad Columbus.