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Letter from Israel No 7 (Shabbat Vayetze)

Prayer is a powerful human need especially in challenging times as we are experiencing at the moment. And I am hearing many family members and friends of the hostages that we all pray for their safe and speedy return, even those who would not describe themselves as being religious. And indeed extra prayers are being said in synagogues around the world for the hostages, for our soldiers and for our victory against our enemies.

The basis of our prayers are the Psalms which echo our call for God’s help. One of most powerful psalms we are especially saying at this time is Psalm 121. According to the Midrash Rabba, Jacob recited this psalm when he came to the place where he rested having fled from Esau and called on God to protect him. And to this day Psalm 121 resonates with us as we also invoke God’s protection. The Midrash Rabba also reads the word ההרים – mountains as ההורים the parents. This indicates that just as Jacob invoked his allegiance to Isaac and Rebecca and their legacy, we strengthen our faith and commitment to our Jewish heritage, especially during these trying times.

We should especially think of the hostages and highlight their plight wherever we can, and remember that they include babies and young children. Outside our home we and many neighbours have hung posters depicting the hostages. When I went to pick up these posters, I noticed one with the picture of three-year-old Yuli Cunio. I have since learnt that her twin sister Emma, is also held hostage by Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

We all have a duty to do all that we can to support our soldiers and particularly to free our hostages and bring Yuli and Emma together with all the other hostages back home. The Talmud (Baba Batra 8b) teaches us that it is a very big Mitzvah to redeem those who are in captivity, as does the Rambam (Hilchot Matanot Ani’im 8.9). Thus, we should all be praying for them and keeping our concerns for them in the public domain. 

P.S. An agreement has now been reached for the freeing of some of our hostages, especially of children. We must continue our prayers and efforts for the release of all of them.

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