Shabbat is the Jewish day of rest. It is the seventh day of the week—Saturday. All over Israel, life slows down. After all, it’s our time to rest.
In our neighbourhood, week-day life seems to come to a halt. On Shabbat, we walk in the street. On Shabbat, our young children play in the street.
We do this because on Shabbat in our neighbourhood there is no car traffic. The streets are empty, except for those who walk and play.
Shabbat is also a time to pray. Our morning prayers are longer than our week-day prayer, perhaps 90-100 minutes longer. We take more time to pray because the G-d of Israel has given to the people of Israel a Shabbat—a day to rest—as a reminder that He is our Creator. Shabbat reminds us that everything we have comes from Him.
For this reason, we dress up on Shabbat. We prepare special meals for Shabbat. We say special prayers for Shabbat. We linger over our praises to our Creator on Shabbat.
We celebrate the day. We celebrate our Creator. We celebrate the ‘rest’ that G-d has given to us.
Yesterday (Shabbat), two special ‘things’ happened during our prayer service. First, as usual, we read a special prayer for the sick. This prayer is built in to our service. During that prayer, the Reader leading it pauses so that anyone present who wishes to whisper the name of one who needs a blessing for recuperation can say that name. Normally, that pause takes perhaps ten seconds—or less.
Normally, that’s as much time as one needs to recite the names of those who need that special blessing.
But yesterday was different. The pause for names to be recited didn’t take ten seconds. It didn’t take twenty or thirty seconds.The pause lasted almost two minutes. It seemed a very, very long pause.
The names of soldiers wounded in Gaza were being read. It took almost two minutes to read all the names.
It was a pause that sobered all of us. Our soldiers—our children—needed our blessing.
War in Israel is never far away. In fact, for us in central Israel, the war is a 1.5 hours car-ride away. When an air raid siren sounds for us, the war is even closer: we have 60 seconds to get to a shelter. In Sderot, Ashdot, Ashkelon and for dozens of small communities close to Gaza, the war is even closer: residents there have only 15 seconds to find shelter.
The war is close—very close.
The second thing that happened yesterday occurred at the end of services. The Rabbi making community announcements paused to tell a story he said he had heard just that morning, after a class he had taught before services had begun. The story happened, he said, to the son-in-law of one of our members.
The son-in-law is in Gaza. Like all Israeli soldiers in combat, he gets pulled out often in order to get some sleep. To get that sleep, he doesn’t go far. He goes to a tent, where he has a designated cot. It’s a folding cot, not very sturdy. Exhausted, he sat down on the cot to go to sleep. But he sat down too hard. The cot collapsed. It folded onto his body. He hurt—or cut—his back. Since he was scheduled to return to combat, he went immediately to the infirmary, to get patched up.
While he was at the infirmary, an incoming mortar shell from Gaza landed on his cot and exploded.
In Israel, this war is close—very close. But then, so is G-d.
Strong is the nation that praises the G-d of Israel.