Today, Thursday, February 8, is Erev Rosh Chodesh Adar I, Yom Kippur Kattan, a day traditionally dedicated to an extra measure of prayer.
As the conflict continues, we may draw strength from the Purim story where the Jewish people, facing an existential threat, came together to join in fasting and prayer – לך כנוס את כל היהודים – that effectively produced the miraculous turnaround that led to our salvation.
During these difficult days of intense war in Israel and growing antisemitism in America and around the world, we can draw further inspiration from the story of Purim in which the Jewish people stood up for themselves decisively in battle and then proceeded to commemorate their victory with acts of kindness, משלוח מנות ומתנות לאביונים. The Jewish people, whose mission is to live up to the Divine image with which every human being is endowed, recognize that to triumph over evil requires fighting harsh battles but proceed to celebrate that victory by returning to engaging kindness, caring and acts of charity.
Earlier this week, a friend shared with my dear partner, OU EVP-COO Rabbi Dr. Josh Joseph, a beautiful prayer found in the classic RCA De Sola Pool Siddur. It expresses beautifully and directly an important aspect of what we must pray for as we work to strengthen our tefillot on behalf of the hostages, the soldiers, the wounded, and the entire Jewish people in Israel and everywhere:
אבינו שבשמים עזר וברך את ארצנו ארצות הברית באמריקא שים אהבה ואחוה בין כל תושבי ארצנו ברך את כל מנהיגי המדינות האלו ותן בלבם רוח חכמה ובינה לקים שלום הארץ וחרותה
Heavenly Father, uphold and bless this our country, the United States of America. Implant brotherly love among all who dwell therein. Bless Thou the constituted officers of government in this land. Set in their hearts the spirit of wisdom and understanding to uphold peace and freedom.
May the incoming month of Adar herald a turnaround towards true days of joy.