Getting Through the Pain, Shock and Fear of Israel’s Attacks

It still doesn’t feel real. It feels like I’m walking around in a daze. I kept waking up last night with images flashing in my mind of innocent hostages taken by Hamas terrorists…wondering if it was just a nightmare…realizing it still is one. 

Images of women, men and children plastered in my brain that could be anyone. Their desperate faces — a mother, a sister, a brother, a child. Those kids could be my own. I felt extra gratitude at what a usual morning entails — giving my children breakfast, playing with cars, packing a lunch for school. The little things are the biggest blessings.

The news of what’s happening in Israel shocked the entire Jewish people. I received drips of what was going on throughout the holiday this weekend — somehow word broke through, but last night, after finding out what actually happened, it was just so much worse than I could have imagined.

The rabbi spoke at shul on Sunday evening. When my husband came home, he relayed that the rabbi said in all of this suffering, our mitzvot have power. We have to daven more, say Tehillim (Psalms), do chesed. By increasing our spiritual work, we can make a difference physically. 

To be honest, I felt defeated and it’s scary and hard for me to admit, but I was doubting Hashem. I was doubting that any of this matters. Do my prayers really count? Does saying that chapter of Tehillim actually do anything? Is it working? We just had Yom Kippur, an entire day of fasting and praying. Is Hashem listening to our prayers? How could this happen if He was? 

The more I got into the news and social media posts after that, the more I realized that the inverse is true. These “people,” the Hamas terrorists that claim to be human are just barbaric representations, shells of what people should be. All those in the media calling the terrorists “militants” are just spewing more falsehood. When 9/11 happened, did anyone call those terrorists militants? 

I’m watching so many people trying to reverse the story, saying Israel is actually the oppressor and the one bringing on the violence. I’m seeing videos of families being ripped apart and taken away. It was too much. Seeing all of it — all of the hate coming from every direction, how could I put my faith in anyone but G-d?

In such a mess, He is the only Being that can get us out. Yes, our efforts matter. The incredible chesed of all the Jews coming together is vital. The fighting from the Israel Defense Force, real people putting their lives on the line, is our physical tool and we will win. There is actual work that is being done, but we can’t do it alone. It’s bigger than this war. It spans centuries, and it’s a tale as old as time. Our enemies never want us to succeed. They want us obliterated. Even if it seemed like that sentiment disappeared, like it faded into the background, those people were always there, the power of their voices just ebb and flow as the volume goes up and down.

After reading the news, crying on and off all day and night, I realized my words do matter. I have to treat every single mitzvah as if that is the sole thing that could bring redemption because as Jews, that’s all we have. That’s all we’ve ever had. When everything is taken away from us, we only have Hashem to rely on. 

We just celebrated the holiday of Sukkot, when we move out of our homes, eat and sleep in the sukkah which is just a few flimsy walls and a bamboo roof. The whole purpose is to experience living in the temporary. We may feel like we have a permanent residence, but really, the only thing protecting us is Hashem. 

I don’t know why this had to happen. I don’t know how Hashem could enable such barbaric behavior in this world. I don’t know how the same G-d that has this happen in our world also is the G-d that saves us. There are so many questions…but what I keep coming back to is that putting my faith in Hashem is just so much better than leaving Him out of it.

Practically, I’m connecting now by praying, saying Tehillim — even reciting one perek in English gives me strength. By reading King David’s words, I realize the pain that has existed for centuries. The words, like in psalm 27, could have been written today.

I’m giving tzedaka to organizations like United Hatzalah. I’m thinking of additional mitzvot I can do right where I am — giving a meal to someone who just gave birth, checking in on a neighbor, visiting the sick, having extra kavannah, or intention while making a blessing before and after food, baking challah, even just changing the way I view a fellow Jew. There are so many mitzvot we do in a day. By putting more energy into them, maybe they’ll make even more of a difference.

When approaching a mitzvah, a person should view it as if it is his only mitzvah, as if he is the only person in the world and as if this is the only day on which he can perform it,” the Chofetz Chaim writes.

We may not be able to be on the battle lines in Israel, but we can support our soldiers and friends spiritually. 

I remember listening to a podcast with Rabbi Mark Wildes and Rabbi YY Jacobson. Rabbi Jacobson spoke about spirituality as something that’s always there, we just may not be able to see it physically. It’s the same as electricity, he explained. It was always in the air, but then at a certain point in history, someone just discovered it. It changed the way I view spirituality. Just because we, as humans, can’t see it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t do anything, doesn’t mean it’s not there, working for us.

Please, G-d, in doing the spiritual work here and the physical work in our Holy Land, we can and will make a difference and get through this stronger. Please G-d, end the suffering, end the pain, bring us Moshiach. 

There’s no easy way to wrap this up. No perfect tiny bow to put it into. It just is. It lies here in the darkness and the pain. In that, we will continue to fight.

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  • Avatar photo Octavio Pajaro says on October 11, 2023

    I loved your article “Getting Through the Pain, Shock and Fear of Israel’s Attacks” – the horror of everything that’s happened is unfathomable — such heartbreaking loss of beautiful people by evil barbarians full of hatred. I’m not Jewish but I feel part of the “chesed of all the Jews coming together.” It hurts me to say I’m not Jewish because I feel so at one with all Jewish people and the pain inflicted right now and the reminder of the past is unbearable.

    • Avatar photo Alex Abel says on October 11, 2023

      Thank you so much for your kind response. Grateful to have you as an ally for the Jewish people.

  • Avatar photo Nathaniel Wyckoff says on October 12, 2023

    Thank you, Alex, for these beautiful thoughts. If there is any good that can come from all this evil, it is an increased sense of unity among all Jews and a heightened connection to Hashem and His Torah.

    I’ve shared your article with several WhatsApp groups and plan to continue sharing it with other individuals.


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