Op-ed

Operation Protective Edge: Recite Me Your Verse

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July 24, 2014

RabbiDavid D. Steinberg

Rabbi

David D. Steinberg

Operation Protective Edge: Recite Me Your Verse

 פסוק לי פסוקך – Psok li Psukeich 

During these difficult times for Israel and the Jewish people, it is hard to say nothing, but even harder to know what to say. The Torah has 70 faces, many perspectives. Particular verses of the Bible may not be able to answer questions but they can offer comfort, solace and a place for personal reflection for those who turn to it in times of need. 

For this reason, TABS has asked a number of rabbis, scholars, and Jewish leaders what verse they might turn to when dealing with the current crisis. In doing this, we were inspired by the practice recorded in Chazal of asking a child or looking in a book for a verse at times of trouble. At such times, the sage would say to the student, “psok li psukeich” – “tell me your verse,” i.e. the verse they were studying at the time.  

We have inverted this requested on TheTorah.com and are asking our sages: “What verse might you use when contemplating the situation in Israel today?” Below are the answers we received, some with comments and some with only the verse.



Rabbi Lookstein

Rabbi Haskel Lookstein

Num. 32:6b

הַאַֽחֵיכֶ֗ם יָבֹ֙אוּ֙ לַמִּלְחָמָ֔ה וְאַתֶּ֖ם תֵּ֥שְׁבוּ פֹֽה:
Are your brothers to go to war while you stay here?
Reflection: Each of us should find our way to participate in Operation Protective Edge, whether it be through prayer, contact with each other – particularly with Israelis and the wounded or the bereaved – contributions to causes involved in support of the citizens of Israel, or in any other way through which we can assert “Imo anochi b’tzara (I am with him in suffering.)”  In other words: Don’t just stand there; do something!

Rabbi Asher Lopatin

Rabbi Asher Lopatin

Psalms 29:11

יְֽ-הֹוָ֗ה עֹ֖ז לְעַמּ֣וֹ יִתֵּ֑ן יְ-הֹוָ֓ה׀ יְבָרֵ֖ךְ אֶת־עַמּ֣וֹ בַשָּׁלֽוֹם:
May the Lord grant strength to His people; may the Lord bestow on His people well-being.

Rabbi Isaac Sassoon

Hakham Dr. Isaac Sassoon

Psalms 46:10-11

מַשְׁבִּ֥ית מִלְחָמוֹת֘ עַד־קְצֵ֪ה הָ֫אָ֥רֶץ קֶ֣שֶׁת יְ֭שַׁבֵּר וְקִצֵּ֣ץ חֲנִ֑ית עֲ֝גָל֗וֹת יִשְׂרֹ֥ף בָּאֵֽשׁ: הַרְפּ֣וּ וּ֭דְעוּ כִּי־אָנֹכִ֣י אֱ-לֹהִ֑ים אָר֥וּם בַּ֝גּוֹיִ֗ם אָר֥וּם בָּאָֽרֶץ:
He puts a stop to wars throughout the earth, breaking the bow, snapping the spear… Be still and know that I am God…

Rav Yuval Cherlow

Rabbi Yuval Cherlow  

Psalms 108:14

בֵּֽא-לֹהִ֥ים נַעֲשֶׂה־חָ֑יִל וְ֝ה֗וּא יָב֥וּס צָרֵֽינוּ:
With God we shall triumph; He will trample our foes.
Reflection: I chose a verse that describes our situation. Thank God, we are not reacting passively and waiting for salvation from above. We are no longer in exile; we have an army and are acting with valor. Nevertheless, we remember that the Master of the Universe gives us our strength to act with valor. We recognize that “With God we shall triumph,” and we believe that “He will trample our foes.” 

rav hanan Schlesinger

Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger 

Isaiah 2:4b

וְכִתְּת֨וּ חַרְבוֹתָ֜ם לְאִתִּ֗ים וַחֲנִיתֽוֹתֵיהֶם֙ לְמַזְמֵר֔וֹת לֹא־ יִשָּׂ֨א ג֤וֹי אֶל־גּוֹי֙ חֶ֔רֶב וְלֹא־יִלְמְד֥וּ ע֖וֹד מִלְחָמָֽה:
And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks: Nation shall not take up Sword against nation; They shall never again know war.

 rabbi dr nathan lopes cardozo

Rabbi Nathan Lopez Cardozo

Psalms 124:7

נַפְשֵׁ֗נוּ כְּצִפּ֥וֹר נִמְלְטָה֘ מִפַּ֪ח י֫וֹקְשִׁ֥ים הַפַּ֥ח נִשְׁבָּ֗ר וַאֲנַ֥חְנוּ נִמְלָֽטְנוּ:
We are like a bird escaped from the fowler’s trap; the trap broke and we escaped.

judy klitsner

Judy Klitsner

Psalms 25: 19, 21

רְאֵֽה־אוֹיְבַ֥י כִּי־רָ֑בּוּ וְשִׂנְאַ֖ת חָמָ֣ס שְׂנֵאֽוּנִי: …תֹּם־וָיֹ֥שֶׁר יִצְּר֑וּנִי כִּ֗י קִוִּיתִֽיךָ:
See how numerous my enemies are, and how unjustly they hate me… May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I have hoped in You.
Reflection: There are two verses in Tehillim that speak to the great difficulties that I have been feeling as an Israeli citizen these past weeks. In addition to the physical threat that hangs over us and our children, there is a sense of national isolation and of abandonment by much of the world.  Here is how I understand these verses and why I find them inspiring:
Verse 19 speaks of multiple antagonists. In the psalm as in the current situation, there are many haters: some who threaten physically and others who offer moral and material support to the enemy. The verse reminds its readers that the hatred of our enemies can be fanatical: it is violent and without foundation or justice. (How aptly it is labeled as שנאת חמס, “the hatred of Hamas”!)
But the sense of hopelessness that pervades verse 19 is challenged in verse 21, which both reframes and reassures.  My enemies might continue to attack and to heap scorn upon me, but they are no longer my primary concern. Instead, I look to my own moral center, to the uprightness and integrity that drive me and that are extensions of God. If I can block out the background sounds of hatred and focus on the painstaking task of living up to my own moral standards, I am protected and revived. Ultimately, despite the enormous difficulties that I am forced to confront, I know I will be victorious. 

Rabbi norman solomon 

Rabbi Dr. Norman Solomon

Isaiah 49:8-13

 כֹּ֣ה׀ אָמַ֣ר יְ-הֹוָ֗ה בְּעֵ֤ת רָצוֹן֙ עֲנִיתִ֔יךָ וּבְי֥וֹם יְשׁוּעָ֖ה עֲזַרְתִּ֑יךָ וְאֶצָּרְךָ֗ וְאֶתֶּנְךָ֙ לִבְרִ֣ית עָ֔ם לְהָקִ֣ים אֶ֔רֶץ לְהַנְחִ֖יל נְחָל֥וֹת שֹׁמֵמֽוֹת: לֵאמֹ֤ר לַֽאֲסוּרִים֙ צֵ֔אוּ לַאֲשֶׁ֥ר בַּחֹ֖שֶׁךְ הִגָּל֑וּ
Thus said the Lord: In an hour of favor I answer you, And on a day of salvation I help you—I created you and appointed you a covenant people—restoring the land, allotting anew the desolate holdings, saying to the prisoners, “Go free,” to those who are in darkness, “Show yourselves.”
עַל־דְּרָכִ֣ים יִרְע֔וּ וּבְכָל־שְׁפָיִ֖ים מַרְעִיתָֽם: לֹ֤א יִרְעָ֙בוּ֙ וְלֹ֣א יִצְמָ֔אוּ וְלֹא־יַכֵּ֥ם שָׁרָ֖ב וָשָׁ֑מֶשׁ כִּי־מְרַחֲמָ֣ם יְנַהֲגֵ֔ם וְעַל־מַבּ֥וּעֵי מַ֖יִם יְנַהֲלֵֽם:
They shall pasture along the roads, on every bare height shall be their pasture. They shall not hunger or thirst, hot wind and sun shall not strike them; for He who loves them will lead them, He will guide them to springs of water.
וְשַׂמְתִּ֥י כָל־הָרַ֖י לַדָּ֑רֶךְ וּמְסִלֹּתַ֖י יְרֻמֽוּן: הִנֵּה־אֵ֕לֶּה מֵרָח֖וֹק יָבֹ֑אוּ וְהִֽנֵּה־אֵ֙לֶּה֙ מִצָּפ֣וֹן וּמִיָּ֔ם וְאֵ֖לֶּה מֵאֶ֥רֶץ סִינִֽים: רָנּ֤וּ שָׁמַ֙יִם֙ וְגִ֣ילִי אָ֔רֶץ וּפִצְח֥וּ הָרִ֖ים רִנָּ֑ה כִּֽי־נִחַ֤ם יְ-הֹוָה֨ עַמּ֔וֹ וַעֲנִיָּ֖ו יְרַחֵֽם:
I will make all My mountains a road, and My highways shall be built up. Look! These are coming from afar, these from the north and the west, and these from the land of Sinim. Shout, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth! Break into shouting, O hills! For the Lordhas comforted His people, and has taken back His afflicted ones in love.

Rabbi Jeremy Rosen

Rabbi Dr. Jeremy Rosen

Micah 6:8

הִגִּ֥יד לְךָ֛ אָדָ֖ם מַה־טּ֑וֹב וּמָֽה־יְ-הֹוָ֞ה דּוֹרֵ֣שׁ מִמְּךָ֗ כִּ֣י אִם־עֲשׂ֤וֹת מִשְׁפָּט֙ וְאַ֣הֲבַת חֶ֔סֶד וְהַצְנֵ֥עַ לֶ֖כֶת עִם־אֱ-לֹהֶֽיךָ:
It has been told to you, humanity, what is good and what God requires of you; simply to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.
Reflection: My late father told me that in the Mir in Lithuania, Rav Yerucham the Mashgiach (whom he admired immensely and after whom he named me) used to ask his talmidim in his mussar shiurim to select a “possuk” to adopt and meditate on during the daily Mussar Seder. My father chose for himself the pasuk from Mishlei (Prov. 3:6) “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths smooth (בְּכָל־דְּרָכֶ֥יךָ דָעֵ֑הוּ וְ֝ה֗וּא יְיַשֵּׁ֥ר אֹֽרְחֹתֶֽיךָ).”
That was his motto throughout his life. When it came to his son, however, he said that he wanted me to adopt a pasuk that would extend beyond the specifically spiritual to something more universal and humanitarian. So he chose the quote from Micah for me.
I now use my father’s pasuk to meditate in preparation for tefilla but I like to think the pasukfrom Micah animates me in my interactions with everyone I encounter every day, and it also incorporates the spiritual message as well.

Dr Erica Brown

Dr. Erica Brown

Psalms 121:3-4

אַל־יִתֵּן לַמּוֹט רַגְלֶךָ
אַל־יָנוּם שֹׁמְרֶךָ׃
הִנֵּ֣ה לֹֽא־יָ֭נוּם וְלֹ֣א יִישָׁ֑ן שׁ֝וֹמֵ֗ר יִשְׂרָאֵֽל:
He will not let your foot slip;
He who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
Reflection: Having never been a great sleeper, I am always comforted by the fact that, God, too, does not sleep. Insomnia is prevalent even in the divine realms. In troubling times, especially in Israel, I think a great deal about this verse because there are those hours where we go to sleep – especially if we are in a different time zone from Israel – when we are not only distant in space but distant in time. Something will have happened while we sleep, and we do not know it until we wake up. 
There is a certain breathlessness about checking the news when you wake up, a what-happened-while-I-was-“gone” sense of unknowing that is very disarming. You can suffer that disequilibrium even when you live in the same country when you sleep and enter another land, one bounded by dreams and a blurry sense of reality. The verse comforts precisely because it tells you that God does not rest. God’s watchfulness has no clock and no limitation, as if God were tucking you in at night and saying, “Rest, my child, I will take care of everything.” And because of God’s vigilance, our feet will not slip. I feel that about the IDF practically and about God existentially. In our covenantal partnership, it’s as if God said to us, “You take care of the day, and I will do the nightshift.”

Marc Brettler

Prof. Marc Brettler

Psalms 29:11

יְֽ-הֹוָ֗ה עֹ֖ז לְעַמּ֣וֹ יִתֵּ֑ן יְ-הֹוָ֓ה׀ יְבָרֵ֖ךְ אֶת־עַמּ֣וֹ בַשָּׁלֽוֹם:
May the Lord grant strength to His people; may the Lord bestow on His people well-being.
Reflection: We say this verse so often, indeed sing it so often, it is difficult to pay attention to what it actually says.  It is the conclusion of a psalm that deals with God’s great power, and this, the final verse is request that (some of) this power be given to Israel, but, quite paradoxically, Israel be blessed with shalom, peace and wellbeing.  This is a paradox worth contemplating.

Rav Yitz Greenberg

Rabbi Dr. Irving (Yitz) Greenberg

Psalms 91:15

יִקְרָאֵ֨נִי׀ וְֽאֶעֱנֵ֗הוּ עִמּֽוֹ־אָנֹכִ֥י בְצָרָ֑ה אֲ֝חַלְּצֵ֗הוּ וַֽאֲכַבְּדֵֽהוּ:
When he calls me, I will respond to him, I am with him in trouble. I will rescue him and I will honor him.
Reflection: I interpret the verse as meaning that God is totally intertwined and suffering with us in our agony. In our time, God saves (and does miracles) only through divine agents [in this case, humans] as it says earlier in this psalm (v. 11): ‘He [God] will command His agents [malachav] to guard you wherever you go.’

Prof Tamar Ross

Prof. Tamar Ross

Ecclesiastes 3:2-8

לַכֹּ֖ל זְמָ֑ן
וְעֵ֥ת לְכָל־חֵ֖פֶץ תַּ֥חַת הַשָּׁמָֽיִם:
עֵ֥ת לָלֶ֖דֶת וְעֵ֣ת לָמ֑וּת
עֵ֣ת לָטַ֔עַת וְעֵ֖ת לַעֲק֥וֹר נָטֽוּעַ:
עֵ֤ת לַהֲרוֹג֙ וְעֵ֣ת לִרְפּ֔וֹא
עֵ֥ת לִפְר֖וֹץ וְעֵ֥ת לִבְנֽוֹת:
עֵ֤ת לִבְכּוֹת֙ וְעֵ֣ת לִשְׂח֔וֹק
עֵ֥ת סְפ֖וֹד וְעֵ֥ת רְקֽוֹד:
עֵ֚ת לְהַשְׁלִ֣יךְ אֲבָנִ֔ים וְעֵ֖ת כְּנ֣וֹס אֲבָנִ֑ים
עֵ֣ת לַחֲב֔וֹק וְעֵ֖ת לִרְחֹ֥ק מֵחַבֵּֽק:
עֵ֤ת לְבַקֵּשׁ֙ וְעֵ֣ת לְאַבֵּ֔ד
עֵ֥ת לִשְׁמ֖וֹר וְעֵ֥ת לְהַשְׁלִֽיךְ:
עֵ֤ת לִקְר֙וֹעַ֙ וְעֵ֣ת לִתְפּ֔וֹר
עֵ֥ת לַחֲשׁ֖וֹת וְעֵ֥ת לְדַבֵּֽר:
עֵ֤ת לֶֽאֱהֹב֙ וְעֵ֣ת לִשְׂנֹ֔א
עֵ֥ת מִלְחָמָ֖ה וְעֵ֥ת שָׁלֽוֹם:
A season is set for everything,
a time for every experience under heaven:
A time for being bornand a time for dying,
A time for planting and a time for uprooting the planted;
A time for slaying and a time for healing,
A time for tearing down and a time for building up;
A time for weeping and a time for laughing,
A time for wailing and a time for dancing;
A time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones,
A time for embracing and a time for shunning embraces;
A time for seeking and a time for losing,
A time for keeping and a time for discarding;
A time for ripping and a time for sewing,
A time for silence and a time for speaking;
A time for loving and a time for hating;
A time for war and a time for peace.

Rabbi Herzl Hefter

Rabbi Herzl Hefter

Psalms 121:5

יְ-הֹוָ֥ה שֹׁמְרֶ֑ךָ יְ-הֹוָ֥ה צִ֝לְּךָ֗ עַל־יַ֥ד יְמִינֶֽךָ:
The Lord is your guardian, the Lord is your protection at your right hand.

Rabbi David D. Steinberg is the co-founder and director of Project TABS. He learned in Manchester Yeshiva, Gateshead Yeshiva, and Mir Yeshiva. Steinberg took the Ner Le’Elef Rabbinical Outreach training course and moved to Huntington, NY to work as an outreach rabbi for the Mesorah Center. In 2007 he joined Aish Hatorah NY as a Programs Director, managing their Yeshiva in Passaic and serving as a rabbi in their Executive Learning program.

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