Holding On to Hope

Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach
Torah Reading: Exodus 33:12-34:26
Maftir: Numbers 28:19-25
Haftarah: Ezekiel 37:1-14

God’s appointed times are a good time to reflect upon God, His Word, and where we fit within His story. Passover is no exception; it is a perfect time to reflect upon God’s endless grace to His children, and indeed it is a time to celebrate His faithfulness. This year, I received many messages that said “Hag Sameach” (Happy Holiday) or “Pesach Sameach” (Happy Passover), to which I responded, “May we find hapiness on this Passover”.

This year, we observed the first night of Passover under the heavy weight of war. At many Passover Seder meals, there was the usual table festively decorated; families & friends gathered, dressed in white for the celebration; delicious food was enjoyed by all. Yet, something was very different this year. There was an empty chair not just for Elijah, but also one for those who were killed or are held in captivity in Gaza. It was an evening full of mixed emotions, reminding us of the brutal reality that we in Israel face today.

As we were telling the Passover story, we were able to relate more to the children of Israel in Egypt more than any other time in modern history. We could imagine more clearly what they must have felt, and the word “freedom” took on a whole different meaning as we told the Passover story with the backdrop of our hostages suffering in Hamas captivity. For me and my family, the extra empty chair at our table for our beloved nephew who was killed in Gaza represented a mix of grief and pain, with hope for the future of God’s final redemption.

Indeed, my only hope for the future is God’s final redemption. In our special reading of this week there is a very interesting dialog between God and Moses, which I can relate to differently this year:

Then Moses said to the LORD, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people!’ But You Yourself have not let me know whom You will send with me. Moreover, You have said, ‘I have known you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.’ Now then, if I have found favor in Your sight in any way, please let me know Your ways so that I may know You, in order that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.” And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then he said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are on the face of the earth?”
Exodus 33:12-16

Moses was asking God what kind of assurance He could give that He would be with the children of Israel on their journey. In fact, Moses understands that it’s not worthwhile if God’s presence would not be with them. The events of the past six months since October 7th and the ensuing war have brought the people of Israel to a terribly difficult reality. We daily mourn the loss of loved ones and our beloved friends and family who are still held hostage in Gaza. We daily fight a war with no end in sight, and we are tired deep in our souls. I described to a very good friend in the US that living through this time is like living through a hurricane each day, only not knowing when it will hit level 5, or when it will calm down to level 1. The stress of constantly needing to be prepared for the worst takes its toll. With this kind of a reality, what assurance do we have that God is with us?

I personally find my only hope during this challenging time in God and His promises. The special reading from the Haftarah portion from Ezekiel 37:1-14 holds an especially powerful and comforting promise for me:

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. He had me pass among them all around, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and behold, they were very dry. Then He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “Lord GOD, You Yourself know.” Again He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them, ‘You dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.’ This is what the Lord GOD says to these bones: ‘Behold, I am going to make breath enter you so that you may come to life. And I will attach tendons to you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin, and put breath in you so that you may come to life; and you will know that I am the LORD.’”

So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a loud noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, tendons were on them, and flesh grew and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘The Lord GOD says this: “Come from the four winds, breath, and breathe on these slain, so that they come to life.”’” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath entered them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the entire house of Israel; behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘This is what the LORD God says: “Behold, I am going to open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. And I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken and done it,” declares the LORD.”

The reality of death surrounds us, but it is during these times that I have to hold on to God’s promise of resurrecting the dry bones, which is the resurrection of the dead and His final redemption.

May God give us the daily grace to press on in the midst of the darkness!

Shabbat Shalom,

Check out previous blogs on this parashah!

Did you know? — Lone Soldier

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One Comment on “Holding On to Hope”

  1. Friends,

    I understand that you are living under the daily reality of the horrors in Israel, but there are those of us around the world who are also living under the shadow and with the stress of what is happening.

    I just heard about the recent video released of Hersh, so I tried to find it online. I was unable to locate the new video, but I found an older interview of his parents and at the end, I shed some tears.

    I can feel the fear of not knowing what is happening. Are the hostages still alive? How are they being treated? The continual fear of what horrific things may be happening to their loved ones. The stress and concern of the families is impossible to experience, but possible to imagine on some level. Hersh’s mother described it quite well. Every minute of every day, wondering if he is still alive or not.

    And to think of how it would be to be dominated and controlled by people who don’t care if you’re alive or dead…. the same people who slaughtered your friends and tried to kill you – who would just as soon have killed you as not, for the value they place on your life, which is only as a bartering chip to try to have other people released who would also like to kill you and your family, friends, and countrymen.

    The agony, pain, and suffering – mental, emotional, and physical – is overwhelming to contemplate.

    As I read through your lists of prayer requests, I pray them to God, agonizing over the unbelievably difficult – impossible – situation and asking God to touch people’s hearts and bring about His purposes.

    With a heavy heart,
    Shabbat shalom to all of you.

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