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From Disbelief to Belief


Shalom again as I head out from a grieving, mourning, resilient, determined and warring Israel.  

A rabbi friend of mine, Yosef Kanefsky, from Los Angeles, was here with me last week. We both participated in the RCA mission demonstrating our community’s support for Israel. The following is his takeaway from our trip.

The Disbelief is still fresh and raw:

The disbelief of the reserve soldiers who were in Shul on the morning of October 7th, and only checked their phones for possible call-up orders after numerous people independently described what was going on in the South. It seemed impossible to be true.

The disbelief of the army rabbis who staff the facility where the bodies of soldiers and sometimes civilians are sent for positive identification and preparation for burial. They have room for 300 bodies at once. “Who could have imagined that we’d have to bring dozens of freezer units for 1500 bodies?”

The disbelief of the soldier who is recovering in Hadassah after having had his leg amputated. “By 9:00 AM I was the last one alive at our position. I waited till 13:00 for help.”

The disbelief of the families of hostages, as expressed in a meeting with the defense minister. "אין לנו על מי להישען” (We have no one to rely on.) The defense minister listened with empathy.

The Disbelief of an entire nation, beholding the myths of Israeli invincibility and preparedness collapse in a heap of unimaginable images.

The Belief that is growing in its place:

The belief of the director of Hadassah that the hospital will be able to handle whatever may, God forbid, yet come. He then showed us the numerous floors of subterranean offices and other spaces that have been converted into operating rooms and patient spaces.

The belief of a Rav who had the strength to speak with us although just yesterday one of his sons was confirmed by the IDF as being among the hostages. His belief that the instantaneous switch that had been thrown, from our being a nation that had been yelling and screaming at one another over whether there would or wouldn’t be a mechitza in the street for Neilah in Tel Aviv, to a nation that had fully and powerfully embraced its ברית גורל, its covenant of shared fate, would be an enduring switch, enduring well beyond when this ends.

The belief of one of the other sons of the above-referenced Rav, who asked his parents to sign a waiver to permit the army to return him to his combat unit, despite the rule that siblings of hostages are excluded from combat.

The belief of the nation-at-large that it will survive, because it has no choice but to do so.

The belief of a stranger who for a minute became an intimate friend: Within minutes of my arrival on Monday, as Adin was driving me from the airport along the Tel Aviv – Yerushalyim highway, the “rocket app” went off. We pulled over to the shoulder, and scampered into a nearby drainage ditch, where we joined other motorists. I sat next to an older man (meaning he was probably my age). Pointing heavenward (not to the smoke now overhead, but higher than that) he observed, “ הכל כתוב / all is already inscribed. ועושים השתדלות / yet we make every effort.”

A final observation: At a certain point when we were at the identification center, the doors on some of that long row of freezers were opened, as the staff did their grim and holy work. We all instinctively turned to face those open doors. Someone in our group started a chapter of Tehillim. I have no idea, but I suddenly felt like I was in one of those moments at a shiva house when we all turn to the mourners and offer words of comfort.

And it felt to me like we were comforting God.

It is very hard to describe how full everyone’s hearts are here. But they are full. And that fullness is what will carry us over to tomorrow.

There are many worthwhile places to donate much needed funds to meet the many needs facing Israel, the IDF, and Israelis in crisis. For example:

Back in San Francisco - Times Are A Changing…..

As you know, last Sunday morning at 2:00 am, America switched from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time. What you might not realize is that the time change impacts our Shabbat morning schedule. Until this week we were able to begin services at 9:30am. However, for the next month we must begin at 9:15am.

Let me explain. When the daily morning service was instituted (just a few thousand years ago), it came with a sunup-based timeline. This means that the morning Shema and Amidah need to be completed within several “halachic hours” from sunup. 

A halachic hour is determined by dividing the total amount of daylight by twelve. Therefore, in the winter a halachic hour could be as short as 48 minutes and, in the summer, it could be as long as 74 minutes. -

Next Shabbat 11/11, sunup is at 6:46am and sundown is at 5:00pm, which means there will be 10 hours, and 14 minutes of daylight. By converting that into minutes (10x60+14=614 minutes) and then dividing by 12 you get a 0:51.16 - halachic hour. According to this calculation, the Shema, which needs to be recited before the end of the third halachic hour of the day, should be finished by 9:19am. The Amidah, which needs to be said by the end of the fourth halachic hour, should be finished by 10:10am.

Optimally, a synagogues’ service times should be in sync with the halachic hour system and allow for the Amidah to be recited right after the Shema. Here in San Francisco, that would require starting Shacharit on Shabbat at 8:30am. However, there is a long-standing custom in many Shuls for people to recite the Shema (in its proper time framework) independently before the beginning of the service. Though this custom is not optimal - it works. Adath Israel has historically followed this custom, and therefore, to at least recite the Amidah within its proper time framework, the Shabbat morning service will begin at 9:15am from 11/11-12/9.