By Sivan Rahav Meir

As we approach the festival of Shavuot, here is a powerful idea that is more consequential than any political debate:

A Jewish student from MIT visiting Israel told me, after describing the hypocritical protests on behalf of Hamas that took place on her campus: “What our world needs the most now is faith, vision, and a clear moral compass.”

This student is absolutely correct, and that is precisely the message of Shavuot. In the shameful and unforgettable hearing in front of the American Congress several months ago, three college presidents could not bring themselves to assert that the call for genocide of the Jewish people was against the “moral code” of their respective institutions.

So here is the definitive moral code as communicated by God in the Ten Commandments that we read on Shavuot:

“You shall not murder!” This year, this command echoes louder than ever. Do not murder, but also do not support a culture defined by murder and death. Do not give these people international support and honor, and do not try to appease them. Members of the UN who stood for a moment of silence in memory of the Iranian president and master terrorist, Raisi, and ambassadors from Western countries who stood in tribute when the Iranian flag was lowered to half-mast, have clearly not internalized the meaning of these words.

Our world is confused; it has difficulty distinguishing between good and evil. And to counter this moral confusion, we must stand up and reaffirm the moral foundation of the word. There is truth and there is falsehood.

“I am the Lord your God who has taken you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery.” There is a God and He plays an active role in history, ensuring that, ultimately, everything will be resolved for the good.

“You shall not take the Name of the Lord, your God, in vain.”

How horrifying that our enemies cry out, “Allahu Akbar,” God is great, when committing the most heinous crimes against humanity: slaughtering babies, elderly, men and women in the “name of God”.

The Ten Commandments also establish the principles of a moral society, in which there are clear limits and each person is recognized as being created in the image of God.

“Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy”

“Honor your father and your mother”

“You shall not commit adultery”

“You shall not steal”

“You shall not covet”

There is even a commandment addressing our system of justice: “You shall not bear false witness against your fellow.” Even more so today, in a time of moral relativity, when every belief is open to subjective interpretation, it is critical to uphold justice. Sadly, we know this has not been happening at the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

On Shavuot, which falls this year on Tuesday night and Wednesday in Israel and for an additional day in the Diaspora, the Ten Commandments will be read aloud in synagogues around the world. It is customary to bring children of all ages to the synagogue to listen, for they will be responsible for carrying its message to the next generation.

Throughout our history, while living under the tyrannical Roman Empire, the murderous Crusaders, and even under the vicious Communist and Nazi regimes, we have always read the Ten Commandments on Shavuot. And today, surrounded by fanatical Islam, on the one side, and a morally-confused West on the other, we must continue to remind the world of these eternal truths.

Shavuot calls on us not to accept the world the way it is, but to strive to make it better, and to transform ourselves in the process.

Chag Sameach.


Remember This Moment

Do you remember where you were when you heard the news about the rescued hostages? We will remember where we were when we heard the good news since it was a moment of unparalleled joy. Take this moment with you forever.

Our shared feelings of pride and gratitude, the pain over our fallen commando, the prayer that all the others will soon be home… This is called Am Yisrael!

I was in a hotel in central Jerusalem on Shabbat afternoon when the news arrived: Four hostages were rescued safe and sound from Gaza in an intrepid raid. Baruch Hashem! The hotel dining room erupted in cheers and everyone began to jump and dance and sing. I was together with students from the Nefesh Yehudi organization, evacuees from the north who have been living in the hotel for two months, and many guests from all over Israel and the world at large. Suddenly there was a spark of hope in their eyes. People who did not seem to be connected to their Jewish identity were suddenly very connected, expressing their excitement singing “Am Yisrael Chai,” “Siman Tov u’mazel Tov”, “The eternal people does not fear a long road,” and “The whole world is a narrow bridge, but the main thing is to not to fear at all.”

Before parting after Shabbat I told the students: “Please remember these moments, and never forget this feeling of togetherness. Our identity depends on it.”

May we be privileged to experience many more moments of true and enduring joy.


The Ties that Bind Us

Bar Kuperstein, a paramedic, was working as a security guard at the Nova festival on Simchat Torah, when he was taken hostage. Julie, his mother, wrote me the following letter:

“Hi Sivan, while we await Bar’s safe return home, I was thinking that someone who does not have tefillin could use Bar’s set. With the help of Riki Siton, director of the Chavruta-Ayelet HaShachar organization, this idea was shared on social media. Within a day or two, 15 men who do not put on tefillin at present, but who want to, had accepted our offer. I just spoke with the individual who will be using Bar’s tefillin. He told me that he stopped putting on tefillin eight years ago but that he will start again, now.

“Our Bar has many merits. His father, also a paramedic, was confined to a wheelchair after being seriously injured in a car accident. Bar, our eldest son, took upon himself financial responsibility for the entire family. In fact, he took the job at the Nova festival in order to earn some extra money. Bar was captured after repeatedly engaging in life-saving acts of courage. And now many Jews have started putting on tefillin in the merit of Bar Avraham ben Julia.

“The initiative has been publicized, leading to large numbers of men expressing interest in putting on tefillin; therefore, we need donations of sets of tefillin to satisfy the growing demand.

“Meanwhile, we all anticipate the day when Bar’s tefillin will be returned to him, when he returns safely home.”

Translated by Yehoshua Siskin, Janine Muller Sherr