A little girl in Aleppo is waiting for an answer

As genocide unfolds on the streets of Aleppo, genocidal dictators are taking note and learning a very powerful lesson – that they CAN get away with mass murder.

December 21, 2016 21:27
2 minute read.

Rebel fighters and civilians wait near damaged buildings to be evacuated from a rebel-held sector of eastern Aleppo, this week. (photo credit: REUTERS)

A day after authorities committed to evacuating innocent civilians from Aleppo, a convoy with thousands of women and children trying to escape this week was brought to a screeching halt.

As genocide unfolds on the streets of Aleppo, genocidal dictators are taking note and learning a very powerful lesson – that they CAN get away with mass murder.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said just three days ago, “Since September, the Security Council has failed to adopt three resolutions that could have enabled a humanitarian truce, evacuation of civilians and the entry of lifesaving aid.” Now what do we do? When the world is too fixated on the latest iPhone or their next vacation destination, the women and children in Aleppo will just have to wait.

In the midst of bombed out cities, houses and schools and carnage strewn on the streets, a little girl with her innocent eyes is asking her protective mother, “Mommy, are we going to survive?” While it is the birthright of each child in Aleppo to be safe, who is going to answer this young girl’s question? Outside the UN building in New York there is a wall bearing the inscription, “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they learn war anymore.”

Perhaps the UN should reference this week’s Torah portion about two 13-year-old boys rather than the hallowed prophet, Isaiah.

This week’s Torah portion tells the story of Shimon and Levi who were outraged that their sister, Dina, had been violated and kidnapped. So the brothers decimated the entire village of Shechem (modern day’s Nablus) and rescued her. This story is the source for our Jewish tradition that adulthood begins at the age of 13, because Shimon and Levi are referred to as men when they drew their swords to protect their sister.

Each time the Torah is read, it is then hoisted up and shown to the entire congregation. Everyone then sings in unison “Its ways are pleasant ways and all its paths are peace” (Proverbs 3:17). This is the culmination of the entire experience with the Torah. So how could it be that those who are commanded to keep the Torah associate their mandated age for adulthood with a seemingly not so pleasant story? The answer is when you have an innocent person who is not politically important and significant to the world’s stage like the little girl in Aleppo, but she is crying out in pain and is trapped in a place where she doesn’t want to be, then our Torah is teaching us that being a man means you risk your life to secure her freedom.

World leaders are very calculating in their responses, yet it isn’t a question about becoming the world’s police, it is a question of doing what is right and protecting innocent lives. This is the measure of all men and women. They are prepared to go into battle for what is right. When someone is in pain and they have, quite frankly, no political difference to make, Judaism still says that being a responsible adult means you have to risk your life to answer their plea for help. That is the lesson each child should take away when transitioning into adulthood.

Who will stand up now and tell the little girl in Aleppo that they will save her? We should only have good news for the world.

Rabbi Areyah Kaltmann is executive director of Chabad Columbus.

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