Klal Yisrael is experiencing a period of enormous difficulty as Israel is surrounded by active threats and Jews everywhere face growing antisemitism. We are fearful of what the immediate future holds. The story of our people – especially since 1945 – inspires our faith and confidence in the eternity of the Jewish people, in Hashem’s promise that the Torah will never be forgotten, and in our lasting connection to Eretz Yisrael, but the years preceding 1945 remind us of the horrific destruction that can be inflicted upon the Jewish people by some while others watch in silence. As Jews everywhere spend every day agonizing over this lesson from recent history, it is profoundly distressing to see how the world so glaringly ignores it.

In addition to learning the lessons of world history, we as Jews must be mindful of the internal Jewish story. Despite the magnificent gift of the return of the Jewish people to the land of our history and destiny, we continue to suffer the effects of the second churban that was inflicted by the Romans but that befell us because of the destructive internal malignancy of sinas chinam, hatred between Jews.

I do not live in Israel. My children are not held hostage, do not serve in the army, and are not impacted by the cancellation of the haredi draft deferment. Perhaps that means I have no right to speak, but more likely none of us have the right to remain silent.

When enemies surround us from all sides, we must not attack each other.

1.           There is a genuine internal crisis in Israel over finding the way forward on the haredi enlistment issue. This war has taken a very heavy toll of death, injury, and profound stress on the soldiers and reservists of Tzahal and their families. Haredim have legitimate fears about the impact of enlistment on their cherished way of life. Neither side may cavalierly dismiss the concerns of the other. Many – though certainly not all – of the leaders and decision makers on both sides, including Gedolei Yisrael and army leaders, are working diligently to find ways to include haredim in the material efforts for Israel’s defense in a manner that respects and preserves their haredi way of life and that does not force enlistment of those who are Toraso Umnaso, full-time yeshiva students. Both sides understand that this issue can no longer be kicked down the road and that they must acknowledge the problems and work together quietly and productively to address them.

2.           National unity governments are typically created during wars or other national emergencies for the strategic purpose of putting aside internal divisions and political posturing and focusing all the nation’s energies on immediate external threats. Well beyond the haredi draft issue, our breakdown in national unity and the return to vicious internal politics and protests have visibly weakened Israel’s standing and posture relative to both its allies and its enemies and have quite certainly undermined its ability to gain freedom for the hostages. We must return to broad national unity and debate policy with a mature and abiding commitment to focus on winning the current war and not the next election.

3.           As believers, ma’aminim bnei ma’aminim, we must recognize that the root cause of our galus is the poison of sinas chinam that continues to infect us. We must be ever so careful to remove its every trace and avoid its recurrence. Our arguments must continue as brothers and sisters working together to solve shared problems, not as enemies fighting each other. נראה כל אחד מעלת חברינו ולא חסרונן ונדבר כל אחד את חבירו בדרך הישר והרצוי לפניו. May Hashem guide us to see the qualities of our fellow Jews and not their flaws and that we speak of and to each other in a manner that is fair and pleasing to Him.

Klal Yisrael faces a gezeira that emanates from Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, and their proxies in America and across the world. Those external enemies seek to destroy the Jewish people and the holy Torah and it is they who threaten the future of the dramatic worldwide renaissance of Torah learning. As we face these terrible threats from the enemies that surround us, we must commit to rid ourselves of the poison of sinas chinam between us.

It is a hallowed tradition observed by some to fast on Erev Shabbos Parshas Chukas to commemorate the twenty-four wagons filled with volumes of Talmud and other Torah works that were burned in France on that day in the year 1242. Tradition connects this event to the words of the Targum Onkelos that open this parsha – ‘da gezeiras oraysa’ – which may be translated as “this destroys the Torah.” This Friday, while some of us fast, let all of us join together in our communities, in our shuls and batei medrash, in our schools, camps, and vacation places, to awaken Divine mercy by publicly reciting Tehillim 13, 79, 80, 121, 130 and 142, and by expressing our love, care, and appreciation for each other, for those serving in government, for the hostages and their families, for the soldiers of Tzahal who are fighting to protect us, for the Gedolei Yisrael, and for all those supporting and engaging in the Torah study and practice vital to our present and future.