We are currently in the "Three-Weeks" period of national mourning, commemorating the destructions of our Temples and the subsequent exile of our people. Our Sages teach us that the current exile occurred due to baseless hatred amongst us—a situation that needs to be rectified in order for the rebuilding of the third and final Temple to take place, in a redeemed era.

To be sure, to this day our nation is known as an opinionated people, with strong, often divergent views on every issue. Disagreement and quarrelling seem inevitable.

Gaza expellees offer to host families from northern Israel in their trailer homes But as I sit writing these words, our brethren within our Land of Israel have been besieged by a threatening enemy wishing their destruction. For the last several weeks, a volley of long-range Katyusha rockets have been tearing through several northern cities in a path of death, injury and destruction. As the count of the dead and wounded rises, residents of Israel are living in trepidation, full of fear and anxiety as they try to anticipate which city will receive the next direct hit.

I, like many Jews living outside of Israel, worriedly consume the latest news bits, several times a day. Here in Toronto, like in Jewish communities the world-over, gatherings are being held to pray for the wounded and to beseech our Father in Heaven to stop the carnage.

But alongside these news reports of the destruction, I also read something unbelievable, reflecting the grandeur of our people.

I am reading a report titled, "Gaza expellees and all of Israel extend helping hands."

The report begins: "Former residents of Gush Katif extended an offer to Jewish families from northern Israel to join them in their already snug caravan trailer homes." The article continues with a list of communities—Shomron communities, 250 families in Ramat Hasharon, the Raanana municipality, and on and on—as well as a list of individual families interspersed throughout the land, who are opening the doors of their homes to any resident of the north seeking refuge.

The article provided a link to a web site to connect families willing to host with those seeking refuge and noted that in the first hours after this site was set up "hundreds of families signed up" to offer their homes!

Rather than harboring resentment or apathy, Gaza expellees, who not too long ago were thrown out of their own homes and are still living in temporary shelters far too small to accommodate their families' needs, are extending offers to total strangers to squeeze in together with them.

In times of difficulty, people often become generous. Shelters and public buildings are usually organized and big-hearted volunteers offer their time or resources.

But here we are talking about something else entirely. This isn't just a gift of food, money or services. Nor is it an invitation for a few hours, or even days. It is, rather, an opening of one's own home to absolute strangers, to share completely and entirely with their lives—to make them a full fledged part of one's family—for an indefinite period of time!

What brings people to act with such concern, compassion and generosity?

It is the realization that though you are a stranger, though we have never met you, though you may have divergent views or opinions, and though we might be at total opposite ends of the religious or political spectrum—underneath it all, you are nevertheless part of our family!

Reading the article I wondered what can be a better display of an absolute, indiscriminate act of love.


Some might argue that this kindness only comes to the fore in unusual times of tragedy or despair. But it reminds me of my own personal, small misadventure about two weeks ago that would make me disagree.

We were definitely a sight, camping on the side of the road We were driving on highway 81 en route to New York City for a niece's wedding. Our van was packed with my children, including my two year old baby, and was carrying a load of suitcases and duffle bags on its roof to drop off together with my daughter at overnight camp along the way.

Suddenly, without warning, the van wouldn't accelerate. Fortunately, we were able to steer it to the shoulder of the highway where it came to a complete halt. My husband and older son investigated the steam and smoke spewing from under the hood.

We were about a half hour out of Syracuse on that hot summer day just as the sun was beginning to set, waiting to be towed back to town. We were definitely a sight, camping on the side of the road. I was clutching my baby in my arms, with my other hand firmly gripping my young son's arm. My husband and son were futilely attempting to get the car started as cars and trucks whizzed by us.

Just as I was beginning to feel sorry for myself, I noticed two individuals hiking toward us from their car parked about a hundred yards ahead, on the highway's shoulder. Given the circumstances, they looked almost like apparitions heading in our direction. As they approached, it became obvious that these were two Jews who had stopped when they saw a brother in distress. Their conscience wouldn't allow them to continue on their journey unless they determined if and how they could be of assistance.

Thanking them, we explained that help was on the way. As we bid them goodbye, suddenly I didn't feel so alone or dejected.

About fifteen minutes later, as I was trying to distract the younger children by collecting wild flowers from the roadside, I again noticed a man coming our way. He, too, had stopped for a fellow Jew in a pinch (there's no mistaking my husband's long beard and dangling tzitzit). Before leaving, this absolute stranger insisted on giving us a bag of baked goods from a kosher bakery in Toronto "just in case" our ordeal took longer than we were prepared for.

Not more than twenty minutes later, before we even had a chance to munch on his goodies, a third car pulled up—another Jew trying to see how he could help.

Some might argue that kindness only comes to the fore in times of tragedy Stuck on the 81, far from home and far from any Jewish community, I thought about these individuals who had taken the time out from their long journey to stop for an absolute stranger, while not even sure that they could be of any help. I thought about their inborn, intuitive understanding that these stranded strangers were really no strangers at all, but an essential part of their own family.

And, that, I think is an important message for all of us to remember as we band together, both in and outside of Israel, against this common enemy that plots our destruction.

And, if I dare say, it is a message of which we can perhaps remind our Father in Heaven as we ask for an end to these "Three Weeks" of mourning and an end to the exile of our people.