I was privileged to spend the last month with our Year 11 students in Israel on the Israel Study Tour (IST). Every morning, we ran two concurrent prayer services; one traditional, and another that offered a creative and interactive alternative, consisting of conversations regarding prayer, our relationship with Hashem, the land of Israel, and each other.
One of the exercises involved asking everyone to share what they would ask Hashem for, were they to have a personal meeting. The religious equivalent of, “If a genie granted you one wish, what would it be?”
What would you answer?
The responses varied; some requested simple comforts (wealth), while others desired a moment of triumph (team victory), and others beseeched an extension of the status quo (my family to stay healthy).
But some of the students looked outwards and global, rather than local and personal.
“Let there be an end to poverty.”
“Please allow us to find the cure for cancer.”
“Let there be world peace.”
It was this last request that interested me.
One beautiful initiative of IST is that as we relocated from one hotel to another, the students were shuffled together with new roommates. The goal being an opportunity for participants to engage with members of their cohort, with whom they did not have a relationship. Although this can be frightening, it was remarkable to see new friendships develop that, were they not compelled to room together, might not have happened.
Unfortunately, not everyone embraced the opportunity to expand their social circles…
Back to the prayer service, I made the following observation.
“World peace? We would ask Hashem to bridge the chasm between the Palestinians and the Israelis, despite 100 years of pain and bloodshed? We demand that Hashem “make” the Russians and the Ukrainians drop their weapons and embrace each other, yet we cannot bare to spend two nights in a hotel room with an unfamiliar member of our Year group?”
I hope the message resonated.
The greatest parenting arrow our quiver is that of role modelling our values. Despite our polished oratory preaching, our children smell hypocritical behaviour. Our Shabbat table conversations are melting pots of shared values, ones that our children listen to, internalise, and then carry with them into school.
We need to live up the values of tolerance, acceptance and understanding, rather than just talking them up. Our homes should be an environment where we build people/the school/the community up, not tear them down.
Instead of praying for world peace, we should bridge the gaps with those with whom we are unfamiliar; greet unfamiliar faces, and smile at familiar strangers.
We can and must role model peacemaking, even on a micro-level. The impact can, and will, be profound.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rabbi Gad Krebs is the College Rabbi at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW.