Friday, October 21, 2011

The Release of Gilad Shalit: Finding (and Fulfilling) Our Purpose in Life

Hopefully by now you've heard about the big news from Israel this week about the release of Gilad Shalit, after being held for five years as a hostage by Hamas.

In exchange for his release, the Israeli government agreed to release more than 1000 Palestinian prisoners - many of them convicted murderers and terrorists.  (It's so important to remember that, even as we rejoice in Gilad's safe return, many of the families of the victims of other acts of terror are suffering - in knowing that the murderers of their children are being freed.  Do take the time to click here to read the short but poignant reflection written by my good friend Rabbi Micah Streiffer about Gilad Shalit and our friend Marla Bennett z"l (who so many in San Diego knew and loved).)

The transaction of 1000 terrorists for one soldier presents a pressing moral question.

I'd like to briefly examine it through the lens of this week's Torah portion, Parshat Breishit - the very first portion of the Torah. 

Breishit of course tells the story of creation.  And one of the things that the text goes out of its way to emphasize is that every single thing in the world was created for a particular purpose.  Light was created for Day.  And Darkness was created for Night.  Rivers were created to flow.  Etc.  Etc.

And according to the Torah, the essential purpose of humanity is to tend to our relationships with our loved ones.

How do we know this?

Because Adam (the first person) is never expected to live a solitary existence.  From the moment Adam is created, God is conscious of the fact that Adam needs a partner (thus explaining the existence of Eve).  Adam is not whole until he enters into relationship with another.

To be human is to constantly be compelled to do everything in our power to care for the ones we love.

In light of the Gilad Shalit situation, I have been thinking about the families that I know that suffered the devastating and horrible loss of a child.  And how that suffering can never fully be relieved because there is nothing that we can do to bring that child back.

And then I think of the Shalit's.  And about the fact that even though the circumstances must have made them realize that getting Gilad back was extraordinarily unlikely...that they devoted their lives over the last 5 years to making it happen.  They never gave up hope.  They couldn't imagine doing so.  Because, as parents, their chief purpose in life was to do everything they could to bring Gilad back.  That's just what we do.  It's how God made us human.

And so, in that sense, there's nothing terribly complicated for me about the transaction that Israel agreed to.  A parent, or a country, can't really give up on one of their own.  It's not how we were created to be.  We're human.  God endowed us with a DNA that dictates our concern for our own.  It's our purpose in life.

What about you?  On this Shabbat I challenge you to look in the mirror.  Who do you see in the reflection?  What is the reason you (in particular) were put on this planet?  What is the unique purpose that you have?  And what, if anything, are you doing to fulfill it?

Shabbat Shalom.

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