Parashat Bo: Temple Shalom, January 19, 2024; Robert Gabor, K.C.
In early 1939 my father, an assimilated Hungarian Jew, left Budapest for London, after
years of warning that Hitler was going to start a war and kill the Jews. He implored the
love of his life to join him, but she refused to leave her family. He loved her so much
that he returned six months later. The next day, the Russians and Germans signed a
Non-Aggression Pact and at dinner that night he told the assembled family and close
friends they were all dead.
How did my father know what was about to happen? He said he read, he listened, he
looked around. He paid attention while much of the world ws sleep-walking.
Tonight’s Parshat is not a story, it is an echo of my father’s warning.
Parashat Bo is in the third book of Exodus. The word ‘Bo’ means “go” or “come” in
Hebrew. This Parashat covers Exodus 10:1-13.6 and describes the last three plagues
that God unleashes on Egypt: locusts, darkness and the death of the first born child. In
preparing for tonight’s service, I learned that the term ‘locusts’ represents powerful
invaders. We understand darkness, and the death of the firstborn is the slaying of an
We repeat the story each Pesach. At the time of the plagues, the Israelites were living
as enslaved people in Egypt. They cried out to God, who heard their cries, and directed
Moses to lead them from Egypt. Moses asked Pharoah to release the Israelites and he
refused until God sent the 10 plagues.
On October 7th, 2023, the locusts invaded Israel and slaughtered 1200 innocent men,
women and children. In Canadian terms that is 5000 people. They raped, tortured and
mutilated the women before killing them, and they burned and beheaded babies. And
they recorded the gore and misery on their cellphones. In the Shoah, eight decades
ago, babies were snatched from their mothers’ arms when they arrived at the death
camps and smashed against the doors of the cattle cars. But that was just business.
The October 7 th terrorists relished every moment. They called home with frenzied
excitement, telling family and relatives how they just murdered many Jews, they sent
videos and photos. Their claims of victory were not met with horror, they were met with
congratulations and adulation. The terrorists also kidnapped 240 innocent civilians who
were spending a quiet day at home or at a music festival with family and friends. Men
and particularly women were paraded into Gaza as trophies, and they flaunted pictures
of babies and young children in cages.
A country that felt itself invincible, was not prepared for the onslaught of terror. A
government, whose primary duty was to protect its citizenry, was distracted by its focus
on consolidating power. The much acclaimed military intelligence apparatus failed when
it ignored the repeated warnings of intelligence officers, female intelligence officers.
How did we get to the October 7 th attack? A good explanation is found in an article
written in the Atlantic by Bruce Hoffman, an American policy analyst and professor at
George Town University immediately after the attack. It is titled “Understanding
Hamas’s Genocidal Ideology”.
In August, 1988 Hamas set out its original covenant. It updated Mein Kampf. It called
for the complete and utter destruction of Israel and Jews:
“The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the
Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will
say O Moslems, o Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”
Article 12 raises the exclusive Muslim right to the land between the Mediterranean Sea
and the Jordan River, with the religious obligation incumbent upon all Muslims to wage
a war of religious purification.
Article 13 rejects negotiations for a peaceful resolution of Jewish and Palestinian
territorial claims. “It is jihad of victory or martyrdom.”
Article 22 repeats parts of the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion:
“With their money they (the Jews) took control of the world media, news agencies,
the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations, and others. With their money
they stirred revolutions in various parts of the world with the purpose of achieving
their interests and reaping their fruits therein. They were behind the French
Revolution, the Communist Revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and
hear about, here and there. With their money they formed secret societies, such as
Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, the Lions and others in different parts of the world for
the purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests. With their
money they were able to control imperialistic countries and instigate them to
colonize many countries in order to enable them to exploit their resources and
spread corruption there.”
Article 28 states that these Zionist organizations “aim at undermining societies,
destroying values, corrupting consciences, deteriorating character and annihilating
Islam. It is behind the drug trade and alcoholism in all its kinds so as to facilitate its
control and expansion.”
On May 1, 2017 Hamas introduced a kinder, gentler charter, shifting the movement
further toward pragmatism and nationalism, as opposed to dogma and Islamism. It kept
its founding principles, but carefully crafted language suggesting moderation and
flexibility. It still called for the establishment of a sovereign Islamist Palestinian state,
laying claim to the entire country of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. The major
departure in the new charter was the claim of Hamas that it is not anti-Jewish but anti-
Zionist, and sees Zionists, and not Jews, as the target enemy. “It is the Zionists who
constantly identify Judaism and the Jews with their own colonial project and illegal entity
and who are therefore responsible for the conflation of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.”
It is all our fault.
There can be no possible peace. Article 21 of their charter rejects the 1993 Oslo
Accord. They maintain it “generates commitments that violate the inalienable rights of
the Palestinian people”.
And here is the kicker. Article 29 states that “Hamas believes in, and adheres to
managing its Palestinian relations on the basis of pluralism, democracy, national
partnership, acceptance of the other and the adoption of dialogue.”
On September 22, 2005, Israel completed the eviction and removal of 9000 Israeli
citizens from 25 settlements in Gaza. It was a very controversial move, a gamble for
peace. The settlers left behind all of the greenhouses used to grow vegetables and fruit.
Hamas destroyed all the greenhouses. The next year Hamas won the election in Gaza,
the last democratic election that was held there.
The world was shocked following the October 2023 attack. And all major countries said
the right things. A close friend told me he could not remember such an outpouring of
support for Israel. I told him to wait. The world likes Israel and Jews when we are
victims, they will like us a lot less when Israel responds to the terrorists. Within a few
months they will forget that Hamas butchered 1200 innocent people and kidnapped 240
more. The lies and distortions will start, and then we will be vilified for going after
butchers who used women and children as human shields, who built rocket launch sites
next to hospitals and schools, and whose reason for continuing is to kill more Jews.
The leaders of Hamas could end the fighting now by surrendering and releasing the
hostages. But their leaders do not care for their own people, as Hitler never cared for
the German people. They are all driven by hate. Hitler wanted to exterminate the Jews,
and Hamas’ leaders want to kill more Jews. This is the highest form of hate, where the
hatred is so pure that it supersedes the instinct of survival.
The supporters of Hamas around the world call for a cease fire and chant “From the
River to the Sea, Palestine will be free”. On the one hand they claim to want peace, on
the other hand they call for the extermination of the State of Israel. They need to make
up their minds. The supporters are not all Muslim, some are even Jews.
This is the reality of our lives: it is the latest saga in 3000 years of anti-Semitism. It is
part of our genetic makeup. It ebbs and flows throughout history, and will be the
Parashat Bo for the people of Israel: the attack by the locusts, the death of innocence,
and the darkness that ensues. It will be the “new normal”, and it will change Israel and
worldwide Jewry forever.
What can we learn from the horrors of October 7 th ?
Lesson 1. When people write or repeat that they intend to destroy you and they gain
the means to do so, they will try to do it. Hitler tried, the Arab countries followed, and
Hamas planned and carried out the slaughter. About a decade ago a senior official in
the Iranian Foreign Ministry was asked by an interviewer for the BBC whether Iran was
concerned by Israel’s ability to use nuclear weapons. The official responded very
calmly: ‘Israel is a small country, Iran is a very large country. They can only kill 30% of
us, we can kill all of them.” Imagine such a statement. Imagine if a nuclear Iran gave
Hamas access to a nuclear weapon? Do you think this group of terrorists would
hesitate to use it?
Lesson 2. We live in a visual world. Few people read history, how many of their
supporters have read the two charters of Hamas. Instead, they watch their phones, and
communicate with people who think like them. They accept lies and distortions as the
truth, alternate facts become facts, and the truth seems to matter less and less. Every
day the world sees videos from Gaza with the death and destruction to thousands of
people, including many children. There is no doubt it is a tragedy and many thousands
of innocent Gazans are being killed. But what of the Gazans who supported Hamas in
the killings, who delighted in the videos of the slaughter and spat and kicked at the
bodies of dead Israelis? They were not innocent civilians. As a result of the daily
coverage the world has forgotten how this war started, how innocent Israelis were
Israel has a 47 minute video compiled from the footage from the terrorists phones. It
has been shown to selected journalists and political leaders. It is grotesque, it shows all
the savagery. The images will be seared into the memories of the people who saw
them. The Israeli government has refused to release it in honour of the memory of
those who were killed. The world needs to bear witness and see the true face of these
so-called “freedom fighters”. I think the Israeli government should ask each of the
families if the segment with their loved ones can be shown.
Lesson 3. We must not rely on international institutions. The vast majority of the
countries of the United Nations have stood against Israel. On June 23, 1960 the UN
passed resolution 138 against Israel for kidnapping Adolf Eichmann, the master planner
of the Final Solution. Imagine, condemning Israel for bringing to justice the individual
who planned the single largest atrocity in the world.
The World Court is now determining whether Israel is committing acts of genocide in
Gaza. As former Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Abella wrote in the Globe and Mail:
“We find ourselves in the perverse situation where a genocidal organization such as
Hamas is able to escape legal scrutiny for committing genocidal acts, while the country
that is the intended target of its genocidal intentions is being called upopn by the
International Court of Justice to defend itself from allegations of genocide.”
Rosie’s father was liberated from Theresienstadt the same day as my mother. She
finishes with a sentiment about the hearing before the Court that I share, if I could only
be as eloquent: “As a lawyer, I find it shameful; as a Jew I find it heartbreaking; and as a
child of Holocaust survivors, I find it unconscionable.”
Lesson 4. We must continue to support the people of Israel. They have and are
continuing to go through a period of profound grief, anger, anxiety and fear. We must
continue to support their children, the soldiers in the IDF.
I do not mention the Government of Israel, which will need to account for and be
responsible for what has transpired.
After the Yom Kippur War, Prime Minister Golda Meir called for a National Commission
of Inquiry to investigate the circumstances leading to the outbreak of the War. The
Committee was headed by the Chief Justice of Israel’s Supreme Court. Nine days after
she received the interim report, Prime Minister Meir announced the resignation of the
government. I await Prime Minister Netanyahu appointing a similar commission of
inquiry led by Israel’s Chief Justice. I cannot imagine him ever resigning.
Lesson 5. We must support our families, our Jewish institutions, our places of worship,
our centres of community activity. As Jews of the Diaspora, they are the pillars of our
Will we, as Jews survive this? Of course we will. Anti-Semitism is part of our history.
We have survived the worst of the worst. Jews survived the persecution and
deportation of the Babylonians, adapted after the destruction of the Second Temple.
We survived the Spanish Inquisition, the pogroms of the Russian Empire, the Spanish
Inquisition, the full-scale persecution and anti-Semitic practices in Europe, the Nazis,
the Arab countries and now Hamas.
Together, we will survive with faith, resilience and education.
Am Yisrael Chai.
Ken yehi ratzon