It's All About The Benjamins!

Thursday, 21 December, 2023 - 4:10 pm

As the war in Gaza continues, I have heard from fellow Jews who are starting to get uncomfortable with defending what Israel is doing. I would like to explain why standing strong for defense of Jewish life is so critical and mandatory for us now more than ever.

They say, “It’s all about the Benjamins.” No, this is not a Rabbi peddling antisemitic tropes. (Besides, I thought that a trope is a note for chanting from the Torah...) Way before Benjamin Franklin adorned the $100 bill, there was another Benjamin. He was an innocent Jew who was being held hostage by, what appeared to be, an enemy force in the Middle East. I refer to Benjamin the youngest of the 12 tribes of Israel. When the viceroy of Egypt threatened to keep him as a slave/prisoner, his older brothers came to his defense, arguing on his behalf and threatening to take military action if he was not released. The spokesman of the brothers, Judah, gave justification for why he was risking his life and threatening to attack for the sake of this one “lad.” He declared, “For your servant assumed responsibility for the boy from my father.” He guaranteed his father Jacob, that he would ensure the young man’s safe return home. The Hebrew word for guaranteed is Arav.

Over 3,300 years ago we stood at Mount Sinai and accepted the Torah. Along with the Torah came the mandate of Arvut, responsibility to one another. Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh Lazeh – all Jews are responsible for one another. We are literally brothers to one another. As such, when one of us is in danger, or when one of us has been hurt or killed, G-d forbid, we regard it as very close and personal. This is not a danger to someone across the world with whom I have no connection. This is not an attack on a group of people in a remote country thousands of miles away. This is my little brother for whom I took responsibility.

We should be and are pained for the loss of all human life. But can we be faulted for taking the attack against our own brother more personally? Every hostage in Gaza is my little brother Benjamin. Each of the millions of Jews in danger of an attack by terrorists in Israel, is my little brother Benjamin. Each Jew around the world that is threatened by antisemites and the “useful idiots” who enable them via moral equivocation, is my little brother Benjamin.

We must each declare as Judah did, “For your servant assumed responsibility for the boy from my father.” We all took responsibility before our Supreme Father for our little brother Benjamin. You’d better believe we are taking this personal. You’d better believe we are standing strong for defense of Jewish life in Israel and around the world. You’d better believe we have no room for moral equivocation. We are talking about our little brother Benjamin.

If you start to feel the creep of discomfort inching up your conscience about the war in Gaza, remember that we are talking about a threat against your little brother Benjamin. This is not an academic discussion about who has the right to the land. We simply cannot stand by as a single Jewish life is lost, how much more so when the lives of millions are at stake.

Remember our action plan! (Copied below). Do your part! May Hashem bless us all with peace and protection; and bring redemption to our world through the coming of Mashiach.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Action Plan Highlights
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Add your Mitzvah today!

  • Tefillin: Please visit Chabad Uptown or Chabad Metairie and lay Tefillin or reach out to have someone come by with Tefillin. If you have Tefillin, put them on daily and offer to share them with other Jewish males over Bar Mitzvah.
  • Shabbat Candles: Ladies and girls, you have the power of light in your hands. Light Shabbat candles before sunset on Friday (this week at 4:48 pm). If you need or know someone that needs Shabbat candles, let us know and we will get a package to them.
  • Mezuzah: Put a Mezuzah on the door of your home or check the existing ones to make sure they are valid. Reach out to us if you need a Mezuzah or help checking the ones you have up.
  • Tzedakah: is a great resource to get funds directly to the organizations on the ground in Israel helping with the war effort. There are many other reputable organizations raising funds as well, see for the Jewish Federation’s initiatives. The main thing is to offer our support.
  • Pray: Chabad Rabbis in Israel have asked that recite the following Psalms for the safety and security our people in Israel - Psalms 20, 22, 69, 122, and 150. At Chabad (both locations) we recite them twice daily during the morning and evening minyan.
  • Letter in the Scroll: Get your child a letter in the Children’s Torah Scroll – The Unity Torah for people of all ages –
  • Study Torah: Join a Torah class or study on your own. Check out the upcoming course Advice For Life –
  • Take a tour of a Mikvah and explore the secret to Jewish family purity and harmony. For more info,
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