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More Than Just Alive

12/21/2023 02:35:25 PM


When the going gets tough, the tough get going, and the Jews start saying, “Od Avinu Chai”; our father yet lives. Coupled with the phrase “Am Yisrael Chai,” the nation of Israel lives, these words find their way to the lips of Jewish communities around the world as a testament of pride and determination in response to antisemitism and hate. The prejudice of society might be out to destroy the Jewish people, but the nation lives on; our father yet lives.

In the 1960’s, when Jews marched and struggled on behalf of the rights of Soviet Jewry, Shlomo Carlebach put these words to song and the Jewish community never stopped singing them. But the inspiration of the phrase “Od Avinu Chai” is much older than the twentieth century. In fact, they are a play on a question that Joseph asks his brothers in this week’s parsha, Parshat Vayigash. After Judah offers himself as tribute in place of his younger brother Benjamin, Joseph is overwhelmed with emotion and reveals himself to his brothers. “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” While the Torah records that the brothers don’t answer because of their shock, the answer is “yes.” “Yes, our father still lives,” “Od Avinu Chai.”

As these words continue to reverberate millennia later, we appreciate the fact that the nation of Israel lives. That despite our enemies trying to destroy us, we persist to live and be here. But more than fact that we still exist is the deeper fact of who we are and what we believe in. The nation still lives, but our father still lives too. In other words, it’s not just that there is a demographic group of people called Jews that are still around, but rather the lessons and culture of Judaism are still alive as well. The teaching of our fathers and mothers are still alive, and in our hearts and on our lips. In light of danger and attacks on Jewish identity, we don’t just stand up and show they didn’t succeed in annihilating us, we show up to our synagogues, we bless the shabbat wine, we give tzedakah (charity), we educate our children, and we redouble our efforts to keep the spirit of Judaism as bright and vibrant as it has ever been.

Am Yisrael Chai.
But also, Od Avinu Chai

Shabbat Shalom


Sat, May 25 2024 17 Iyyar 5784