It has been a trying month for the world and for Israel. We've seen countless terror attacks in the past few weeks, most prominently the terror attack in Paris and the multiple in Israel, resulting in the loss of life of soldiers, fathers, mothers, friends: people with whom we can closely identify with. Most of these casualties were not people who put themselves in the line of duty, but civilians. Innocent. In the past
For a number of students, the murder of Ezra Schwartz hits especially close to home. Ezra was in Israel for a gap year after graduating a Jewish high school in Massachusetts. He and I shared mutual friends on Facebook, making it seem all the more clear that this random attack could have been on me or any other one of my friends in Israel.
But what are we to do? What can we do?
The Jewish people have constantly been under attack. From ancient times (Romans, Greeks, Philistines, Babylonians) to present (Iran, ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah) Israel has been a target and constantly having to defend herself. But as Jews have entered a diaspora, there is less immediacy to the protection that we can give to our homeland. It is not realistic to ask every Jew, or everyone who cares about the security of the state of Israel, to drop their lives and join the IDF. It is not within everyone's financial ability to make a sizeable contribution. I can say first hand that there seems to be very little that college students can do to make change. There is only so much impact that candlelit vigils can have seeing as there is never a time or place that can accommodate everyone's specific schedule.
If I could zoom out for a moment, I want to look at the one element in every person's life that (s)he has complete control over, and that is spirituality. No one has complete control on their age, intellect, height, weight, ethnicity, religious upbringing, etc. The one area in which we have 100% power is our spirituality. You can fall into success without deserving it, and you can be denied success despite every attempt in work, love, health, status... A's for effort don't exist past elementary school in any domain but spirituality. There is a direct correlation between what you put into it and what you get out, which makes it very much worth fighting for.
I can express this concept in looking at the two rabbinical holidays that the Jews have: Hanukkah and Purim. When the Ancient Greeks attacked us, they did not try and kill us. All they wanted was for us to stop practicing Judaism. They outlawed Torah study, they forbid keeping shabbat, and they defiled all of the holy oil that was meant for the menorah. As I hypothesized earlier, if we do not fight for our spirituality, it simply goes away: give sero, get zero. After no time at all the Jewish people would be long forgotten, having traded in their Torahs for togas. This was clearly a battle that must be fought.
Purim, on the other hand, is a different kind of battle. Haman decreed that all of the Jews were to be put to death, no exceptions. It didn't matter if one was a Rabbi, or ready to convert immediately and become Haman's personal assistant. If you were a Jew you were going to die, no matter what you believed or how you could change. This is a physical battle that the Jews were in, so fighting would be futile: if G-d decreed the Jewish people were going to die, then the Jewish people were going to die. The only thing we could do at that point was to have faith that G-d would put an end to his decree by quashing Haman (or his decree) in some way. The Jews prayed and fasted for three days, and G-d stopped the plans set in motion to destroy us. In this case, the Jews were fighting a spiritual battle, and readying their guns would have gotten them all killed.
It is faith that I hope we can all turn to now to combat the terrorism the world is experiencing. There is no amount of physical preparation that we can do to stop any attacks; if G-d decrees it, it will happen. Our response should be to exercise our spirituality and ask that this terror be stopped. Not only will we come together as a people in pursuit of a common goal, but we will feel more at ease knowing we are doing something.
Ask for safety. If you don't believe in G-d, think about hope for the future. Don't sit at your desk and feel helpless, but wish for peace. It is the only chance that we have.