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Praying for Kidnapped Babies

One of the things that has changed the way Jews connect around the world has been the ability to come together live via video. Whether it’s Zoom or YouTube, Jews have used these platforms to unite in a spiritual way. At the start of the war, we hosted a night of Global Unity and Prayer which was watched by over 500,000 Jews around the world! In a short amount of time we were able to gather families of the kidnapped hostages with the Chief Rabbis of Israel among many other prominent Jews on the roof of the Dan Family Aish World Center to pour our hearts out together to the Almighty. It was truly inspirational.


Chief Rabbi of Israel at unity prayer on Aish rooftop


A few nights ago I was asked by a local group in Bergen County New Jersey to share words of Torah on a zoom for a group that recites Psalms together for the soldiers and captives in Israel. I was honored by the request and immediately accepted. A few hours later, one of the organizers informed me that Maurice Shnaider, the uncle of Shiri and Yarden Bibas who were brutally kidnapped with their small children Kfir and Ariel, would join us on the zoom. With their flaming red hair, the Bibas children who were videoed by Hamas, even as they abducted the children being carried by their terrified mother, have become a symbol of why we are fighting this war.


Zoom conference


Yesterday was Kfir Bibas’s first birthday. Jews around the world marked his birthday as our hearts remain broken since we have no news of this precious family over three months later. Apparently, the kidnapping of babies is what is meant on campuses across the United States when they chant at pro Hamas rallies “By any means.” We are fighting an enemy that is truly sick and devoid of any morals or ethics. 


As if this connection to the Bibas family was not enough pain for Maurice, his younger sister, Margot Silverman, along with her husband Yossi were killed in Kibbutz Nir Oz on October 7. These were Shiri Bibas’s parents. As I introduced him to the viewers on the zoom, I assured him that our hearts were with him from around the world. Acknowledging the support, he spoke about how moved he was when thousands of Jews came to pay their respects during the shiva, the traditional seven days of mourning. His strength and belief in the Jewish people was palpable through the screen.


Bibas family hostage posters


On the call, I spoke about a question from the medieval commentator, Nachmanides. I thought he was the perfect Torah scholar to cite, as he came to Israel as an older man over a thousand years ago and found Jerusalem in disrepair. He built a synagogue in the Old City in Jerusalem where so many of us pray today. He asks why Jews are so obsessed with the Exodus from Egypt. So many of our commandments revolve around its commemoration. We place a mezuzah on every doorpost in remembrance. Many of the holidays including Passover strive to retell the story of the exodus from Egypt. The majority of the Five Books of Moses tell the story of the Exodus. Why the obsession? 


I suggested that while we were enslaved in Egypt we were at our lowest as a nation. We were being abused and indiscriminately killed by the Egyptian army. Jewish babies were being drowned in the Nile river. We couldn’t see a way out of our misery. Just when it seemed darkest, the Almighty sent Moses to free us from the Egyptian terrorists. We left Egypt for our homeland in Israel, with our heads held high.


Rabbi Burg at the Western Wall


Indeed, throughout Psalms there is a recurring theme that it is always the darkest before the dawn. Just as we know that the sun will rise every morning, we know that the Almighty will save us in our darkest hour. The most evil dictators and despots of world history have tried to destroy the Jewish people and have always ended in defeat. I mentioned that if you had told the Jews in concentration camps in 1945 that in three years the Nazis would be destroyed and we would create a Jewish state in our homeland of Israel, they would have stared at you in disbelief. Yet, the Almighty has never forgotten us and has always brought the light to vanquish the darkness. 


I concluded by mentioning that in the days of Samuel the Prophet, David, who would later become King David, the composer of the Psalms, had his family and those of his men kidnapped and had to go to battle to save them. Nothing has changed for the Jews as we are still fighting for our families, and King David’s words continue to uplift us. We then all recited Psalms together. 


As I have mentioned so many times, this is the secret sauce of the Jewish people. We are family. We love one another. We will always be there for one another. When the Hamas terrorists kidnapped the Bibas family they kidnapped our family. We must continue to storm the gates of heaven with prayer. We must beseech the Almighty and tell him that we need our brothers and sisters back. We need our suffering to stop. Mostly we need to stay focused on our current unity. Jews are passionate people. We are a stiff-necked people and we can be stubborn at times. Yet, we are never stronger when we put aside our differences and embrace one another. Together we are unbeatable. Let us all focus on maintaining our unity as a family living and caring for one another.