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Letter from Israel No 33 (Bemidbar and Shavuot)

In recent days there has been much discussion as to whether Israel should accept the latest ceasefire proposals voiced by President Biden, which includes a phased release of our hostages. While we are increasingly concerned for our hostages with news that four more of them have been murdered, we alas cannot trust Hamas or even those who are pushing for a truce. And we must continue to show the world that every hostage is not just a number but a part of our own families. He or she is worthy of all our concerns because Judaism considers everyone to be a precious individual, and especially when someone is suffering, as are our hostages, we must do everything we can to help them.    


The Mishna (Sanhedrin 37a) expresses the idea of the importance of every one of Israel in the following way: “man created alone, to teach you that whosoever destroys a single soul of Israel, scripture imputes guilt to him as though he has destroyed a complete world; and whosoever preserves a single soul, scripture ascribes merit to him as though he had preserved a complete world.”  Similarly, a census was undertaken of the Israelites not just as an exercise in counting heads. It shows that every individual is valued. For this reason, according to Rashi, the prince of each tribe stood by to attest to the background of every member of his tribe. This also showed that everyone has a part to play in the collective of the Jewish people.


The importance of every Jew is also emphasised on Shavuot when we celebrate the giving of the Torah at Mt Sinai. The Midrash explains that all generations of the Jewish people were also there to receive the Torah. And we should think that every day we are receiving the Torah and have an opportunity to renew the Torah by always learning and keeping it.


And as we celebrate the unity of the Jewish people at one of the most auspicious moments in our individual and collective Jewish history, let us support every effort for the release of our hostages, and pray that they come back home.

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