A Message from the Danforth Jewish Circle on the Eve of Shavuot

Tonight’s celebration of Shavuot gathers us at the foot of Mount Sinai to open our ears and our hearts to hear Torah speaking to us and to this moment. This moment is one of multiplying heartbreak and horror as we witness rockets fall on Israeli cities and as we witness Israeli strikes on Gaza.

This is a time of shock and shattering as we witness brutality between Jewish and Arab neighbours, breaking out in Israeli cities and towns where these citizens live side by side. And the expressions of growing antisemitism around the world and right here in Toronto are deeply disturbing and distorted.

Torah extends moral imperatives to us to learn and practice at this time––to pursue justice; to seek peace and pursue it; not to stand idly by as your fellow human bleeds. Torah extends to us the fundamental assertion that every human being is created in the image and likeness of the Divine.

These are imperatives that command us to recognize and grieve the deaths and injuries of both Israelis and Palestinians. These are imperatives that call on us to speak out, urging our political leaders to leverage a ceasefire.

These are teachings we must read and interpret in relationship to the realities of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, the war crime of Hamas’ targeting of Israeli civilians, the attempt by Israeli settlers and the state that backs them to evict Palestinian residents from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah and other neighbourhoods, the thinly veiled lies of antisemitism.

These are teachings we need to learn through the examples of the Israelis and Palestinians, partnering organizations and movements, who refuse to be enemies, who keep working for mutual recognition and justice. Let’s pray this Shavuot to learn and teach the Torah we need for this time – the Torah of truth, of human dignity, and of peace.