In my last column before Sukkos, I addressed the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Yom Kippur War. I did not expect that fifty years later I would be writing about another war against Israel. It appears I was not the only one who was surprised. Just like 50 years ago, it appears that Israel was unprepared for this attack. An Israeli spokesman compared it to 9/11 and Pearl Harbor. There were also other parallels. The attack was started on a special day in the Jewish calendar. In 1973 it was Yom Kippur and this time it was Shemini Atzeres. The Yom Kippur War started on October 6 and this war started on October 7.

I found about the Hamas attack while waiting for a kidush on Shemini Atzeres. Shul was ending much later than usual. I was informed that news of the attack was announced in shul, and they said a bunch of Tehillim. Fifty years ago, when we heard about the attack, it was Yom Kippur, a solemn day where we think about life and death. The war just added to the seriousness of the day. On Simchas Torah (the day after Shemini Atzeres), it was more challenging. Simchas Torah is a joyous holiday. Not only do we have festive meals, but we dance with the Torahs to celebrate the completion of the cycle of Parshas. Yet this year, word was getting out regarding the extent of the number of dead and injured caused by Hamas’s attack and hostages that were taken. It was the worst slaughter of Jews in one day since the Holocaust.  I am familiar with some of the towns in the Negev that were attacked, since many years ago I spent a year in Israel studying in a Yeshiva located in Netivot. I later learned that Netivot was spared the attack.

I was torn between these competing narratives. I was not the only one. In trying to figure out how to deal with the situation, I asked individuals older than I if was there any change in the celebration of Simchas Torah during the Yom Kippur War. No one remembered.

I do not know how every shul in the neighborhood dealt with the situation on Simchas Torah. Some may have conducted business-as-usual because it is Yom Tov and we have to be happy. Others had a full long Hakafos but may have said some Tehillim. There may have been others who had a toned-down version of Hakafos, doing them all but reducing the length. Others may have had longer Hakafos, arguing that celebrating the Torah is the way to respond to tragedy and that they will not let our enemies control our lives.

I davened in the shul where I have gone for an early Simchas Torah minyan for the last few years and went to one other place to participate in more Hakafos. However, my heart was not into the joy of the celebration. I thought of the story in the Talmud about the Jews who were celebrating that the Roman soldiers did not attack them, unbeknownst that Jews on the mountain next to them were being slaughtered by the Romans.

It was later brought to my attention that the Hakafos were appropriate for our situation. I had never looked into the meaning of the words. I just looked at the text as being an introduction to the dancing and singing. The first line said for all seven Hakafos is “Please Hashem, save now.”

I have mentioned in previous articles about how we have to do our part to help ourselves and others. The question now is what Jews living in America can do to help our brothers and sisters in Israel. We should increase our learning of Torah. We should try to daven and say Tehillim (Psalms) with more meaning and give more charity with a focus on Israeli institutions in the areas affected by the war.

The Talmud tells us that the Second Temple was destroyed because of senseless hatred. In the months before the attack, Israel was being torn apart by the proposed changes to the law as it related to the Judiciary. There were vicious personal attacks. We should try to be united and avoid disputes with fellow Jews. This is not the time to engage in the blame game, whether it is in Israel or in the United States.

Some of the ways to show solidarity is by going to communal events, whether it is to pray for those in Israel or attending rallies in support Israel. This includes rallies that include elected officials from political parties that you may not agree with. Those who support the enemies of Israel, including the Hamas terrorists, are rallying.  The sickening part is that they include a few elected officials and students from some of the best universities in the country. We need to show that they are a small minority by a strong showing at rallies in support of Israel.

If you need any additional motivation, you can look at the videos that were allowed to be shown and listen to those who saw the unedited version. For example, Admiral John Kirbym spokesman for the National Security Agency, was choked up on CNN when he was describing what he saw.

With G-d’s help, Israel will get through this trial and tribulation like it has in the past. We also need to be part of the process instead of sitting on the sidelines. 

Warren S. Hecht is a local attorney. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.