Sukkot Message from Rabbi Kedar

Dear congregants,

I know that you have all heard the news about the deal that was signed between the Israeli government and Hamas releasing Gilad Shalit in exchange for 1,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons. On June 25, 2006, Shalit was captured by terrorists who infiltrated an Israeli army post near Gaza. During the raid, two IDF soldiers were killed and three others wounded.

BJBE has been praying for the health and safety of Gilad Shalit since his captivity. The next several days are wrought with tension and fragility as this complicated agreement is executed. The latest news says that Gilad will be released on Tuesday, in time for Simchat Torah. Holding this fragile moment in our hearts, we will begin our service with a vigil of prayer, song and hope, for the safe return of Gilad to his family.

So many questions are raised by the headlines. Among them, are Israel’s willingness to release terrorists who were responsible for the deaths of so many Israelis. I have included below a paraphrased statement by Rabbis Yaakov Kermaier and Charles Klein that reflects my own thinking:

“Sometimes in life, the answer to a complex question may be ‘I don’t know.’ The arguments of both sides may be equally compelling and make it difficult to arrive at a simple solution. On Succot, we place the lulov next to the etrog reminding us that the spine and heart are vital components of human life. What happens when the two symbols are in conflict with each other? – when the spine tells us one thing and the heart suggests another approach. On the one hand, there are those who lean toward the lulov approach, saying that negotiations with terrorists will lead to further terrorism and endanger the lives of other soldiers. On the other hand, the heart tells us that Gilad is a member of our extended family, and we must do everything to reunite him with his own family. Who is not moved by the pleas of his parents who have travelled worldwide to seek support for their child? The proposed exchange between murderous terrorists and Gilad Shalit demonstrates the dynamics of this human conflict.

The lulav says, ‘Don’t give in to human emotion.’ The heart says, ‘Don’t be so principled that you lose touch with human pain.’

We are familiar with the story of a community that one year suffered a bad crop of etrogim. People did not know which etrog to select since the choices were very limited. The rabbi of the town said, ‘Bring me two etrogim so I can help you decide which is better.’ Thus, the people of Israel have decided that the heart is better this time. After all, the Talmud teaches us, ‘The Almighty insists on a heart.’
As we look at the imperfect Succot, let us realize again that life is imperfect with imperfect answers.

We look forward to Gilad’s return as we stand with the Shalit family and welcome him home standing tall with pride and our hearts overflowing with love.”

Remember our prayer for the year: peace and health, all the rest is commentary.

Happy Sukkot,

Rabbi Karyn Kedar