Sivan Rahav-Meir
Sivan Rahav-MeirEyal ben Ayish

* Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

1. There is a special rhythm we experience one day each week: the rhythm of Shabbat. It's a mixture of smells and tastes and quiet calm, something that is very Israeli and impossible to describe in words. The terrorist in Neve Yaakov murdered seven people, but it is important to make clear that the terrorist murdered seven people in Neve Yaakov on Shabbat -- between welcoming Shabbat at sundown, the evening meal, and gatherings of family and friends.

Even the world press spoke differently of this terrorist attack and explained what Shabbat is all about. Because the difference between the demonic lust for murder and the simple joy of being alive stands out in this instance, at this special time of the week, more than ever.

Yesterday at the close of Shabbat, 14-year-old *Asher Natan Morali* was laid to rest. He was murdered just after his family had finished the Shabbat evening meal and Asher, oldest child of eight, went outside to meet some friends. Also buried yesterday night were *Natalie and Eli Mizrahi*, who had been having the Shabbat meal with Eli's father. How tranquil that Shabbat family gathering had been before the couple rushed outside to help the wounded and were murdered.

Four other precious victims -- Raphael Ben Eliyahu, Irina Korolova, Shaul Hai, and Ilya Sosansky -- who were murdered on the day of rest have yet to be brought to their final resting place as I pen these lines.

The following Shabbat day was a source of consolation itself. On the morning after the terrorist attack, ancient words of comfort from the weekly haftarah, taken from the book of Jeremiah, were read in synagogues throughout the world:

*"You fear not, O Jacob My servant, and be not dismayed, O Israel! for behold, I will redeem you from afar and your children from the land of their captivity, and Jacob shall return and be quiet and at ease, and there shall be none who disturb his rest."*

Condolences to the families. May all the prophecies of consolation soon come true.

2 How do you survive crises? How do you bring about change?

How do you change the world? What was the most urgent matter prior to our Exodus from Egypt? Rabbi Moshe-Zvi Neria wrote about this moment as follows: "It's the way of the world that in days of radical change and revolution, everyone is swept up by what is going on outside. Personal matters are pushed off, family life is neglected, no one thinks that this is the time to prioritize what happens inside, within the home."

During tumultuous times, people go out into the streets for demonstrations and protests. They attend large rallies in the city center since that is where the important things are happening. But the Exodus from Egypt -- which changed the entire world -- transpired differently. At the height of that dramatic event, we are ordered to gather in our homes for the first Seder.

"Each family, individually, is required to eat at home," Rabbi Neria continues. "Even public figures must leave the masses temporarily for the sake of the first family feast, a majestic occasion that celebrates the coming liberation. In order for the nation to achieve true freedom, peace, and stability at large, there must first be stability in private, at home."

The greatest revolution in human history began around the dining room table.

There is one line written by singer Meir Ariel that people quote when they are faced with a challenging difficulty: "We survived Pharaoh, we will survive this too." This is a comforting thought that testifies to a positive attitude: We have lived through greater challenges than this and we can draw strength from history and the sense of proportion that it brings. The fact is that we faced greater crises in the past and managed to get through them.

But this is not enough. The question is not only will we survive difficulties, but also where we will find ourselves after they pass. Before the Exodus from Egypt, the people reacted to the harsh reality of slavery in this manner: "But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread." In other words, the more the people were afflicted, the more they grew in numbers, realized success, and flourished. Our purpose is not just to survive a difficult challenge, but rather to learn from it and gain strength -- to blossom, develop, and grow.

In the midst of every kind of distress and challenge, it's worthwhile to remember that "we survived Pharaoh, we will survive this too." But it is also possible to examine the treasures and blessings that might be found within a difficult time, and to utilize the situation at hand in a way that brings about positive change and empowerment.

3. A personal loss last week was my beloved grandmother, Rachel Keshet, z"l, at the age of 88..

She was born in Givat Ada, between Netanya and Haifa. She was a daughter of the Gordon family, one of the first families to settle there. In her childhood, she was privileged to see with her own eyes the draining of swamps and the planting of vineyards in the Land of Israel after it had lain barren for two thousand years. Her stories about going to a well to fill a bucket with water and growing chickens in the family chicken coop gave me and all her grandchildren and great-grandchildren a sense of proportion in this era of abundance.

In this week's Torah portion we read: *"And you shall tell your child on that day."* Savta Rachel told us her story, passing it down to her progeny. She had a wonderful childhood while growing up without electricity or a car. She told us how every child knew how to climb up to the roof and broadcast in Morse code in the event that Arab troublemakers entered her village. She spoke of riding to school in a horse-drawn cart. And what about the school itself? It consisted of single room where first through fourth grade pupils studied together with the same teacher.

She possessed a wonderful quality best described as "expansion of self." The idea behind this quality, formulated by *Rabbi Shimon Shkop*, maintains that all of us are concerned primarily with our "ani" or self. Our task is to expand this concept of self so as to increase the scope of our caring and concern. An egoistic person is concerned solely with their own physical needs, a person somewhat more developed is concerned with satisfying personal spiritual needs too, while a refined individual expands their concern to include the needs of family members as well as the needs of those in their community at large. And then there are those whose concern for others encompasses the entire nation of Israel.

Savta Rachel demonstrated expansion of self with her constant concern: for a cavity in your tooth, for the grades on your report card, for the gift you wanted on your birthday. Being involved and caring about everything we did was a top priority for her. When we left on a mission to the United States, she amazed us with her equanimity. "I am not thinking about myself even though I will certainly miss you," she said, while showing enthusiasm for our trip and making sure we left with warm coats and gloves for the New York winter.

Savta was one of the first subscribers to "The Daily Portion." She read it every morning and sent me her reactions. She will not read it anymore so I am dedicating it to her soul's ascent.

4. Israel's drought.

"We are already in the month of Shevat," writes Rabbi Itamar Haykin. "Most of our yearly rain should have fallen by now, yet the clouds remain empty. The natural springs, streambeds, and reservoirs are dry. The land is parched. A year of drought is upon us.

I miss the rain. I raise my eyes to the heavens each day, but then hope turns to disappointment. I adhere to the traditional belief of my forefathers, that the relationship between heaven and earth depends upon the relationship between one person and the next. So when the heavens are closed and bereft of rain, I sense this as a rebuke, an indication of our being closed to one another. If only we could be like rain, which does not make distinctions between one person and the next but blesses and gives joy to all, without exception.

If I had the power, I would issue the following decree: for a moment, stop this crazy running around; for just a little while, silence the din. Stop the endless bickering for just one second. Let's set aside a day for a ta'anit dibbur, a day of abstinence from speech. Or at least a day when we do not say anything derogatory about anyone else. A day of soul-searching, of contemplation and reflection. Not for the farmers or the level of the Kinneret, but for us.

A day for looking within and entreating help from above: *'Hearer of prayer, give dew and rain for a blessing upon the earth, and saturate the entire world from Your abundance, and fill our hands with Your blessings and the precious gift from Your hands. Protect and save this year from every bad thing, from every kind of destruction and calamity, and make this year one of hope and lasting peace.'*"