Shabbat Balak 5774

I can’t remember being as drained emotionally as I have been this week. My mind has been a receptacle for conflicting thoughts struggling with one another like Jacob and Esau in their mother’s womb. The words of Kohelet, Ecclesiastes, kept coming back to me.

“A season is set for everything; a time for every experience under heaven…

A time for slaying and a time for healing;

A time for demolishing and a time for building.

A time for weeping and a time for laughing;

A time for mourning and a time for dancing.” (Kohelet 3:1, 3-4)

On Monday, we learned what we feared most when Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Fraenkel and Gil-ad Shaar were first reported kidnapped. They had been killed within minutes of their capture. The emotional turmoil came instantly. As I expressed on Facebook, “The instinct to pray for vengeance is in a deep struggle with my natural inclination to pray for peace. Both instincts are in our tradition. Today we know why.”

Consider the ways we could extend Kohelet‘s conundrum this very week, this very day:

“A time for prayers for vengeance, and a time for prayers for peace.”

“A time for grief, and a time for rage.”

“A time for nekamah–vengeance, and a time for nehamah–comfort.”

How can we know the right time for each? Are these legitimate thoughts? Should they be expressed? Should they be acted upon?

I’ve spent the week looking for the scales to tip, for one of the conflicting emotions to triumph over its natural twin. Three great teachers have weighed in: Rashi, Ibn Ezra, and Racheli Fraenkel. Two of the three are giants of medieval Bible commentaries; the third, a wise woman, is the mother of one of the murdered boys. On Shabbat morning, I’ll share their words.

May it be a time of comfort for all who grieve.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi David Wise