Early on Shabbat morning on October 7, 2023, during the holiday of Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah when Jews are supposed to rejoice, Hamas terrorists launched a coordinated air, sea, and land attack on Israeli civilians, soldiers, villages, and cities. The horrifying brutality that followed — the deadliest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust, and the abduction of 150 hostages taken by Hamas — has left us heartbroken.
Our community is hurting and horrified following the brutal attack by Hamas. Our hearts break for the Israelis massacred, abducted, and injured. We fear for the lives of the hostages, and we are saddened by the continued loss of life — Israeli and Palestinian — that will surely come next.
The crimes against humanity, the threats to televise executions of hostages, the unrelenting updates on social media, and the tensions on many campuses have left Jewish students with a range of emotions — sadness, confusion, pain, anger, grief, fear, and more. While no one text, ritual, or act can bring calm or peace to this moment, we offer One Heart Shabbat, A Hillel Gathering as a way for Jewish students everywhere to join together in solidarity and strength, grounded by love and support as we pray for healing and peace for the State and People of Israel.
One Person with One Heart:
Where did the idea for One Heart Shabbat come from?
Exodus (Shmot) 19:1-2 | Exodus (“Shmot”) is the second book of the Torah. It tells the story of the Israelites leaving slavery in Egypt and establishing a covenant with God at Mt. Sinai.
On the third month of the Israelites’ departure from the land of Egypt, on that very day, they entered the wilderness of Sinai. Having journeyed from Rephidim, they entered the wilderness of Sinai and encamped in the wilderness. Israel encamped there in front of the mountain.
בחֹ֙דֶשׁ֙ הַשְּׁלִישִׁ֔י לְצֵ֥את בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם בַּיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֔ה בָּ֖אוּ מִדְבַּ֥ר סִינָֽי׃ וַיִּסְע֣וּ מֵרְפִידִ֗ים וַיָּבֹ֙אוּ֙ מִדְבַּ֣ר סִינַ֔י וַֽיַּחֲנ֖וּ בַּמִּדְבָּ֑ר וַיִּֽחַן־שָׁ֥ם יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל נֶ֥גֶד הָהָֽר׃
Rashi on Exodus 19:2 | Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki) is a renowned 11th-century French commentator on the Bible and Talmud. Rashi picks up on a grammatical oddity in the phrase, “Israel encamped there” (Exodus 19:2), noting that the Torah seems to be talking about the people of Israel, which is plural, but the singular form of “encamped” is used. To Rashi, this can mean nothing less than that the people of Israel, the Jewish people, were as one person with one heart in that fateful moment.
Israel encamped there: as one person with one heart
חַן־שָׁ֥ם יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל כְּאִישׁ אֶחָד בְּלֵב אֶחָד
After a week of grief, violence, and global turmoil for the Jewish people, we hope that this Shabbat can be a source of connection and community for Jewish students and communities across the world.
Rituals for Your One Heart Shabbat:
In recognition of the unique and varied ways that Shabbat is celebrated in the Jewish community, here are a number of suggestions that can be used to uplift and enhance your Shabbat this week.
Use this guide to give someone you love a Jewish blessing:
- Get close: Physically turn toward the person. If you are both comfortable, you can look into their eyes, hold their hands in yours, hug them, place your hands on their shoulders or on top of their head. Just give/receive consent first. The point here is to connect with them and create a little closeness.
- Get soft: Take 5-10 seconds to connect your energy force to the person you are about to bless. Notice your own breath cycle once, in and out. Imagine your heart growing soft and open toward them. You may also imagine your heart literally growing soft as you look at them. Take another 5-10 seconds to think some really good, sweet thoughts about them.
- Get curious: Invite the person you are blessing to share what they wish to be blessed for. Listen closely to what they tell you. If you are the person being blessed, don’t be shy. Dig deep and ask for what you really need in this moment. Share what you are praying for, and trust the person you are with to hold you.
- Offer your blessing: Blessings don’t need to be super long and involved in order to make an impact. Short and to the point can be powerful! Don’t worry about getting all the words right. In the end, the exact words don’t matter as much as the intention and the connection. Try beginning with the words “May you…” or “May there….” or “I want to bless you with…” and then fill in the gaps. Giving a blessing is also an opportunity to let someone know how much you care about them, so feel free to include some words of love, support, or gratitude if it feels right.
- Seal the deal: Encourage the person you bless to say the word “Amen” after your blessing. This “completes” the blessing in a metaphysical sense.
Hadlakat Nerot, the ritual of lighting candles to begin Shabbat, is an opportunity to take a quiet pause and reflect on your experiences and emotions of the week. Use this intention-setting exercise to deepen that reflection:
Lighting these candles is an invitation to draw our energy back to its source to be replenished and renewed. Many people have a tradition of waving their hands over their eyes three times after lighting the candles and before reciting the blessing. We might understand this tonight as literally drawing in the Shabbat energy we need in this moment. As we light candles tonight, beckon our soul energy to come back to its source. As you wave your hands each of the three times, have in mind that you are drawing in another realm of inner rest.
Set an intention before blessing and eating the challah, a special bread eaten on Shabbat:
Read this excerpt from Rochie Pinson in her book, Rising: The Book of Challah:
“Challah may look like bread but it is really so much more than that. Challah is baked in large batches, always served in pairs, and is never just about our own personal survival. The very word challah, which comes from the Torah in the directive to separate the first of our dough [prior to baking] as a gift, indicates that this loaf is selected and sacred. When we take off a small piece of the dough [prior to baking] and declare it to be the separated challah gift, we are testifying to the fact that we are aware of a larger reality, something bigger than ourselves and our own physical need. As we knead the challah dough, we put our arms, hearts, and minds into the process. Not waiting for it to be “over with” so we can eat the challah, we are mindful of the process of creation itself.”
As Jews, we will always have each other. In joyous moments, and in moments of grief and pain like this one, the Jewish community is here to hold each other. You are held, and you are holding others. As the Israeli poet Zelda wrote, “My peace is tied by a thread to your peace.” We will carry each other with our arms, our hearts, and our minds. Am Yisrael Chai, “the Jewish people live,” and — as we nourish ourselves with Shabbat dinner tonight — we celebrate our resilience, our strength, and our ability to support one another in community.