| The Bigger Picture |

This is Who We Are

Friends, brothers-in-arms, family members, rabbanim, and “strangers” — all have come together to storm the gates of Heaven

Elul. Stirrings of teshuvah.

Returning to Hashem, to who we are, to what matters.

Hamelech basadeh. The King is in the field… and in the parking lot.

It is Elul 5781, and 21-year-old Sgt. Barel Shmueli, an IDF officer and sniper, has been seriously wounded in an attack on the northern border of the Gaza Strip. Evacuated to Soroka Medical Center in Beer Sheva, he is undergoing a series of emergency surgeries. The life of Barel Achiya ben Nitza — our brother — hangs in the balance. And the Yemei Harachamaim — days of supplication, of crying out and begging for life — are here.

This is not a drill.

It is well after chatzos halailah, close to 2 a.m.

Thousands have gathered on the grassy area and gravel outside of the hospital to plead for mercy. Friends, brothers-in-arms, family members, rabbanim, and “strangers” — all have come together to storm the gates of Heaven. B’soch ami ani yosheiv. These are my people; this is who we are.

Organizers distribute kippot, siddurim, and photocopied pirkei Tehillim.

The traditional Sephardic Selichos liturgy includes shofar blowing throughout the Yud-Gimmel Middos, and so, on cue, the shofar blasts sound. Though part of the nusach, they feel so abrupt, so shocking. Without nuance or need for explanation, they emanate from the depths: a heart-opening rallying call, a battle cry. An admission and recognition of our frailty, vulnerability, and humanity. A coronation of Hashem. And one simple request: Life!

In the face of tragedy, pain, heartbreak, and uncertainty, this is us; this is what it all comes down to. And this is what we do. In our shuls, batei medrash, in our homes, on the grassy area by the hospital parking lot, wherever. We hold on to each other and cry out to our Father on High.

At the tail end of a tumultuous year filled with struggle, divisive politics, and polarization, in the face of perceived hopelessness, we are not giving up. We hold on with faith and prayer, crying out and coronating Hashem together, basadeh, outside of Soroka Medical Center, waiting for a miracle. For life.


Rabbi Judah Mischel, a talmid of Rav Avraham Zvi Kluger, is executive director of Camp HASC, Mashpiah at OU-NCSY, and founder of Tzama Nafshi, an organization dedicated to Jewish education.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 876)

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