Sometimes, there’s nothing to say. Now is one of those times. Our voices are broken, our hearts shattered over the cruel fate of the men, women, children, and tiny babies who have been brutally massacred by an evil people. Our anger burns and our souls cry out over the fate of those brave, brave hostages, and all of those in danger in the land of Israel. Whilst we hope and pray for their safety, we feel frustratingly powerless.
Marcheshvan - bitter Cheshvan, is the name we give to this month, and bitter indeed it is this year. Just weeks ago on Yom Kippur, we prayed to G-d, ‘Ten Shalom Ba’aretz’ – ‘Give peace to the land of Israel.’ We thought that our worst enemy could be ourselves, and we prayed for peace in the land of Israel from the different and contentious fractions within it. Little did we know the kind of peace we would be praying for before the festivals would even be over.
As we enter Cheshvan, we experience a lull in the Jewish calendar. Tishrei is crammed with special and holy days, yet Cheshvan is the only month with no festivals at all. Tishrei was an explosion of speech; of prayer, declarations, repentance, and promises. In the name Cheshvan though, we find the word Chash – silence. For in Cheshvan, silence reigns. A burst of speech, inspirational as it is, is short-lived. The effect peters out. Instead, it is what we do in the silence that shows what we are really made of.
Cheshvan is a time to hush; to silence our ego and our natural tendencies, and to listen to what our souls are telling us. For quiet though, it’s voice may be, your soul talks to you. We feel helpless and powerless, and in truth, there is not much we can do on the war front. Yet believing that there is a G-d who controls all, we can turn to Him and do our bit by praying and by improving our observance in whatever small way we can as a merit for the safe return of all of our brothers and sisters. If you listen, you will hear what your soul is asking of you.
And as we listen in the silence, listen too to the sound of our collective heartbeat. To the voices of others. Hold back your opinions, and listen and learn. Let’s unite together as one nation, with one heart. Because it is when we are unified that we will triumph and we will be redeemed. Already, from within the sadness, the shining moments stand out. The man standing by the El-Al counter, paying for the ticket of every Israeli citizen who has been called back to fight for their country. The people of all walks of Judaism working together to source and pack food, toiletries, and massive mountains of supplies to send to soldiers on the front. The Jews worldwide who have been holding Tehillim events and prayers for people whom they know nothing about, other than the fact that they are their Jewish brothers. And together as a nation, Am Yisrael Chai – the Jewish nation will live.
To our courageous soldiers out on the front, to our civilians hiding in their bomb shelters, to our hostages whose fates seemingly hang in the hands of barbarians, we say, ‘Hashem yishmarcha mikol ra, Yishmor et Nafshecha. Hashem Yishmor Tzetcha Uvoeacha Meata Vead Olam.’ ‘May G-d guard you from all evil, may He guard your soul. May G-d protect your coming and your going from now and forever.’