I heard a few interesting stories and thoughts over Shabbos.
The one that I got the most from was told by the Rav of my shul.
This past week, a couple in Jerusalem came to him with the following scenario. The husband had decided to get his wife something special for her birthday recently. He chose a food that he knew she liked very much. When he brought it to her, she responded with great appreciation for his thoughtfulness, but she declined to eat it. When asked why, she explained that she had accepted upon herself that as long as the Jews in the south of Israel are suffering with constant missile bombardment, she would not eat any treats or delicacies, except on Shabbos. She could not enjoy these things as long as her brethren were in pain. Being that this treat could not be saved, she would not be able to eat it.
When we think about how we can relate to the difficulty of our brothers and sisters who have been driven out of their homes, we find it hard to really connect. This woman was able to find something tangible to do that would allow her to share in the pain of those who are suffering, to make it her own. Perhaps we can do the same.
My rav also said that when we show ‘solidarity’ for our fellow Jews who are suffering here in Eretz Yisroel, it is completely different from any other nation showing solidarity for their suffering brethren. The way we show solidarity is by davening and saying Tehillim and strengthening our Mitzvah observance, Torah study and dedication to our relationship with Hashem. When we do this, not only do we show that we have our brothers’ suffering in mind, but we actually give them spiritual strength – the strength they need to overcome the obstacles they face.
When you daven for a soldier in Israel, you are literally helping that soldier defeat his enemy, and come out unharmed.
My rav also explained that when Yakov spoke of his gift of Shechem to Yosef, he referred to it as the place he acquired with his “sword and bow.” Onkelos explains that the “sword” is the prayer, and the “bow” is the request. My rav explained that the sword is something that once one’s enemy is close, one does not require a tremendous amount of skill to attack and destroy him. The bow requires precision, but one who aims properly can take out his enemy from a great distance.
The same thing is true of our tefillos. The tefilla that we say every day is like a sword that does not require the same tremendous effort to have an effect. That effect, however, may not be as far reaching. When we invest extra effort and kavana in a special tefilla for our brethren who are suffering, this is like the bow and arrow that when properly aimed can have a long range effect.
Let us all try to take this to heart and invest our efforts in feeling for our brothers and sisters who are in pain. A little extra tefilla with kavana and a little extra sensitivity can go a long way to helping us here in Eretz Yisroel, no matter where you may be.