When Tragedy Strikes

The world was taken by surprise this past Shabbat on the holiday of Shemini Atzeret when the nation of Israel was violently attacked unprovoked by Hamas, the terrorist organization whose headquarters is in Gaza. Thousands of Israelis have been mercilessly killed and wounded; and the war has only begun. Some say that the stories being told, and the scenes being shared on social media are reminiscent of what took place during the Yom Kippur War, others say it similar to the pre-World War Two pogroms and the Holocaust. One thing is for sure, this war is not ending anytime soon, and the consequences of this war will be felt for generations to come.

At moments like these, it behooves us to consider what does the Torah have to say about terrorism, murder, and tragedies? There is no question that they are wrong, barbaric and sinful; but is there anything more we can learn and understand?

As we begin again with the Parsha of Breisheet, after the story of the Creation of the World, and the eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, we read of the first conflict and murder in world history, Cain murders Abel. After G-d confronts Cain and asks him where Abel is, G-d continues and states:                                            

See Genesis 4:10

                                                            וַיֹּ֖אמֶר מֶ֣ה עָשִׂ֑יתָ ק֚וֹל דְּמֵ֣י אָחִ֔יךָ צֹעֲקִ֥ים אֵלַ֖י מִן־הָֽאֲדָמָֽה׃

What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground!”

There is no hiding from G-d. Even our thoughts are known by G-d, let alone our actions.

The words of the verseק֚וֹל דְּמֵ֣י אָחִ֔יךָ צֹעֲקִ֥ים אֵלַ֖י-   Your brother’s blood cries out to Me advance important lessons for us to consider:

1.     Your brother’s – despite different, cultures, nations, beliefs… we are all brothers. Cain and Abel were brothers. The Arab Nations are descendants of Ishmael the brother of Isaac, one of the Patriarchs of the Jewish People. We see that brothers warring against one another is not new. It’s been around since Cain and Abel.


2.     ק֚וֹל דְּמֵ֣י אָחִ֔יךָ  Your brother’s blood (pl)  - the Hebrew word for blood here is written in plural – Demay. Why would the Torah have written the word blood in plural. The great commentator Rashi- (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki 1040–1105)  explains that it is plural because Cain didn’t just kill his brother Abel, he also extinguished all the future progeny that would have emanated from him. Therefore, Abel’s blood and all his potential descendants blood cried out to G-d after the murder.


Our task is to be truly brotherly and to support one another, provide love and assistance, and be hopeful and prayerful that better days are on their way. We encourage you to visit https://www.jcrcsnj.org/israelupdate2023 to learn more about how you can help, learn more, steps you can take, social media resources and more.

May G-d hear all the sincere prayers of His children and bring forth peace and goodness.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Epstein
Community Scholar in Residence