October 27, 2023 / 12 Cheshvan 5784
We open this week’s Torah reading with Gd’s command to Abram (later to be renamed Abraham), “Lech Lecha,” translated as “Go forth.” This divine directive, and title of this week’s Torah portion, marks the beginning of Abraham’s sacred journey as he leaves his homeland to venture into the unknown, in pursuit of a covenant with Gd.
In Parashat Lech Lecha, we see Abraham’s unwavering faith in Gd as he embarks on a journey to an unfamiliar land. His faith and trust in the divine plan are essential for his mission. Abraham’s journey was not without challenges and obstacles. Along the way, he faced famine, political tensions, and even the abduction of his nephew Lot (in next week’s Torah portion). But it was Abraham’s courage and determination that enabled him to keep moving forward when faced with struggle and adversity.
Today, we too, are faced with hardship, suffering, and a similar captive moment. Like Abraham, we too must advocate for the captives stolen from our community twenty-one days ago. Today, and every day until all 220 hostages have been freed, we must summon our courage to confront the forces of terror, demand their release, and work tirelessly for their safe return. It is in these moments that our inner Lech Lecha spirit, our call to action, is most evident.
The Torah consistently emphasizes the sanctity of human life. The Talmud teaches that “Whoever saves a single life, it is as if they have saved the entire world” (Sanhedrin 37a). This teaching underscores what each of us innately knows, that every life is of immeasurable value. Just as Abraham risked everything to save the life of his nephew Lot, we too must strive to save the lives of the hostages who were abducted by Hamas terrorists on October 7. Each one of these hostages’ lives is uniquely precious, and it is our duty to do everything in our power to secure their release.
Unfortunately, the Jewish people have known times like this before, and it is because of this familiarity that our sacred texts and rabbinic discussions highlight the Jewish principle of Pidyon Shvuyim, the redemption of captives. This mitzvah reflects our obligation to secure the freedom of those who are unjustly imprisoned or taken hostage. It is a sacred duty to help those who cannot help themselves and to work for the release of the oppressed.
It is in pursuit of this mitzvah, to advocate for every hostage’s life, that we must rally every friend and neighbor to engage in a community-wide effort to contact our federal elected officials. Today, we live in a time where our elected officials judge the desires of their constituents based on the number of emails, phone calls, and office visits they receive on a particular topic. Right now, they are being called to pursue a cease-fire.
We, too, desire a cease-fire, but not one at the expense of ignoring the hostages and the horrific attacks committed by Hamas against innocent Israelis. We ask that you contact your congressman/woman and advocate for the following conditions for a cease-fire:
- The immediate release of all kidnapped hostages held in Gaza, including the bodies of any murdered Israelis.
- Hamas’s removal from the leadership of the Palestinian people.
- Clear, public commitment to peace by ending the Palestinian war against the internationally recognized Jewish state of Israel.
Lech Lecha teaches us about faith, courage, and the value of a single life. Just as Abraham’s journey required unwavering faith and determination, advocating for the lives of the hostages abducted twenty-one days ago demands our commitment and action today. We must draw inspiration from the Torah’s teachings and the example of our forefather Abraham to stand up for the sanctity of life, confront the forces of darkness, and work tirelessly for the redemption of captives. In doing so, we fulfill the timeless Jewish mandate to be a light unto the nations, seeking justice, compassion, and the sanctification of life in the face of adversity.
Now more than ever, those who cannot speak for themselves need our help, our effort, and our passion. Because we are…