Last week Rabbi Nicole Roberts spoke about the ways that our prayers resonate
with us in a different way as we find ourselves in the midst of this crisis. When
we read the prayers for redeeming captives, for setting free the bound, for
delivering Israel from harm, they now have a poignancy and power which
touches at our very core. We hear the words of the prayers differently, we pray
them with more fervour, more heart, more purpose than just a few weeks ago.
And I found the same this week when I was reading our Torah portion. Usually
when we come to lech lecha we speak about Abraham and his covenant with
God, the way he left his homeland and all that was familiar, seeking new
horizons, we discuss Sarah and Hagar, their children, their rivalry and conflict,
the promise to Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens, and that both sons, Isaac and Ishmael would be founders of great nations. We rarely, if ever, speak about the verses where Abraham’s nephew Lot is caught in the middle of warring nations and is taken captive. He is imprisoned as a hostage, and when word reaches Abraham of his predicament, Abraham moves heaven and earth to ensure his safe return. He goes to war with the kings, he releases not only his nephew, but all those who were held as captives and he refuses to take any reward for his actions. He sees the act of saving life, of rescuing others, to be reward enough.
I have been reading that story for many, many years and not until this year, have
I thought about Lot. I have not considered his fear, his helplessness, his
situation when he was captured and taken from all he knew, removed from
safety and placed as a pawn in harm’s way. I did not think about the terror
Abraham was feeling when he heard what had happened to his nephew,
wondering how he was being treated, was he ok, how could he find him and
bring him home.
This year, there are more than 200 Lots: men, women, children, all being held
captive by Hamas. There are thousands of Abrahams: family and friends who
hold their breath, not knowing what has happened to their families, praying,
hoping, crying out to the world to help bring them home. I remember the years
we prayed for Gilad Shalit, every Shabbat we read his name, we kept him in our
minds, we did not forget him. Sometimes as we read his name, I wondered what
was happening to him, what he did for the days and nights which must have
seemed endless. And now we wonder for hundreds of people. As we look at the
incredibly powerful empty Shabbat table, set for 200 people, we try to comprehend that many stories, that many souls, that many who are being held,
that many people we need to find, to free, to bring home.
The ECAJ has begun a campaign #bringthemhome, helping to advocate for the
release of the hostages, not one or two, but all of them, so they can be embraced by the arms of their families, they can sit once more at the shabbat table and pray for peace. This Shabbat, as once again we acknowledge all the empty places, we read Lech Lecha through our newly opened eyes, we understand the words in ways we did not before, we are called to be like Abraham: to act, to help, to do what we can to bring them home. Let’s continue to advocate for their release, to keep their stories in the forefront of the world’s consciousness, let’s learn about them and speak about them. Each one of us has power, we have a voice, let’s lift them up together and do what we can to bring them home.
Baruch Ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha’olam Matir Asurim,
Blessed are You, Eternal One, sovereign of the universe, who frees the captive.
Ufros Aleinu Sukkat Shlomecha,
May we all be enfolded beneath a canopy of peace. Amen.
Rabbi Jacqueline Ninio