A Call to Come Close in Traumatic Times

This Dvar Torah was edited from one written by Rabbi Ari Hart, the spiritual leader of Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob and published here.

Photo by Rémi Walle on Unsplash

Now is the time to come close.


Our parsha this week, Vayigash, which means to approach, to come close, is the story of Yosef and Yehuda.


They are the different leaders of a family in crisis figuring out how to come together.


The coming close of Yehuda and Yosef is also a national story, reflected in the Haftorah we will read this Shabbat, with Yehuda’s tribal legacy and Yosef’s tribal legacy representing different aspects of Jewish national identity that come apart and then come back together.


In mystical thought, Yehuda and Yosef represent Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David, different aspects of the yearned for ultimate redemption that ultimately must come together for the repair of the entire world.


As we navigate the collective trauma of 10/7, in Israel and abroad, the Torah’s call to come closer, as individuals and as a nation, resonates more than ever.


The events of 10/7 have cast a long shadow over the Jewish people, touching every life in a manner that calls us all to come closer, to truly understand and share in the collective experience of our nation…


Life in Israel now is somewhat “normal.” Schools are in session, people are working, shops are open, and people are on the streets.


And on top of that “normal,” a layer of grief, worry, and action – so much action – pervades everything. It’s astonishing how all sectors of society have mobilized to support the myriad needs that arise during wartime.


A piece of graffiti on the streets of Jerusalem that I saw said it well: ein li yom, v'ein li layla – I don’t have days, I don’t have nights.


It’s hard to overstate how much the events of the Black Shabbat have affected every single person in Israel.


Everyone knows first or second hand someone that was murdered or kidnapped on the Black Shabbat.


Everyone knows first or second hand a soldier who was killed in the fighting since then.


Everyone knows someone who is currently serving.


Everyone knows.


In the US, even tragedies like 9/11 do not have the direct, personal connection to an entire nation. In Israel, it’s just so close…


There are feelings of a surge in national unity, and anger at the government.


There are feelings of betrayal and rage at the Palestinians who worked in Kibbutzim in the South and gave information to Hamas, and there is sadness and pain over civilian casualties in Gaza.


There is deep worry at what might come next, and hope for the future.


And all of these feelings are often contained in just one person and expressed within a moment of each other!


Every person I’ve spoken with has also expressed deep gratitude for those who have visited. The impact of such visits is profound, highlighting a real sense of isolation…


For all who are able, I encourage you to come. Come pick olives and avocados on farms with labor shortages. Come daven and learn Torah. Come eat at restaurants and ride in taxi cabs. Come swim with dolphins in Eilat (everything is half-off right now!). Come and be with your friends, family, and people.


It’s not easy, and it might not be easy for a while. But the people here are resilient. They are soldiering on. People are sacrificing and even finding ways to smile.


So if you can, come.


In the spirit of Vayigash, I call upon our global community to physically and emotionally come closer to Israel.


Your visit, your engagement, and your presence can be a profound act of solidarity, echoing the embrace between Joseph and Judah.


Come cry, come smile, come be, come close.

Shabbat Shalom