Zman simchaseinu, Sukkos as a time of great joy, took on a whole new meaning this year with the announcement that Gilad Shalit will be released in the next few days. After 5 years languishing in a Hamas dungeon in an undisclosed location with absolutely no visits or contact from family, the people of Israel or even the Red Cross, Sergeant Shalit is finally coming home.
I must admit, I am confounded and conflicted in my emotions. On the one hand, I feel unbridled joy, jubilation and euphoria. As Prime Minister Netanyahu has said on a number of occasions, “Gilad Shalit is the son of every Israeli family,” and I would add of every Jewish family. Who could imagine the conditions he has faced, the treatment he has received, and the torture he has been forced to undergo by the brutal terrorists, Hamas. The mere thought of his release and return to his family and all of Israel elicits a feeling of boundless happiness.
And yet, on the other hand, I feel unbridled sadness and grief when contemplating the price that Israel must pay to secure Shalit’s return. The release of 1,000 terrorists who are sworn to the destruction of Israel and to the murder of innocent men, women and trouble is a source of sadness, anger, resentment and fear. Undoubtedly, there will be a hero’s welcome and a national celebration when Shalit is reunited with his family. But how will we all feel if God forbid just one of these vicious terrorists being released succeeds in striking Israel again, resulting in casualties?
On the one hand, Israel is showing incredible and remarkable commitment to her soldiers by displaying a willingness to go to extraordinary lengths to bring Gilad Shalit home. Morale in the IDF will surely be lifted by the knowledge that no matter what happens to them, their country will do everything in their power to protect their soldiers and secure their freedom.
However, on the other hand, how do the soldiers who risked their lives to capture these 1,000 terrorists feel, knowing that their efforts are being reversed when the prisoners they arrested will be back on the street and back to planning heinous attacks?
On the one hand, parents and family members of every Israeli soldier must be comforted to know how much the country values each and every soldier. On the other hand, how does the family of those murdered or injured by one of the 1,000 terrorists being released feel about this news?
Sukkos is a time of great simcha, joy, but it is specifically on this holiday that we read Kohelles which reminds us of our own vulnerability, fragility and the futility of many of our efforts. Even under the Chuppa, a moment of incredible happiness, we break a glass to remember the threats, challenges and problems we face.
As we celebrate Sukkos anticipating the return of our beloved soldier, Gilad Shalit, it seems to me to be appropriate to feel unbridled happiness and joy as well as unbridled sadness and sorrow at the same time, after all that seems to always be the Jewish way.