Speaking at Rutgers Chabad, the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel spoke of the fear even within his own family in the midst of a wave of terrorist attacks in Israel.
“When one of my daughters did not want to go to one of her lessons because she was afraid, I told her not to be afraid,” said Rabbi David Lau during the Oct. 18 program, “but be secure the storm will pass, and we will return to normal life.”
Despite the lecture’s late hour of 10:30 p.m., Lau drew a crowd of about 120, most of them students, to his brief appearance just hours before a return flight to Israel.
Students offered their own words of support and encouragement for Lau to take back with him.
Lau described his unwavering belief that God would deliver Israel from its enemies, and said how deeply such tragedies have affected him as he has comforted the families of Israel Defense Force soldiers who died in action.
“IDF is a name,” he said. “What I see are the children of my friends and people. I was last year to all the mourning homes of the soldiers killed in the war in Gaza. I remember exactly what we spoke about. We spoke about families. We spoke about people lost.”
He said his experience with IDF soldiers has been that despite being required to serve, “they are proud to be in the army and save life. When you know you have a goal, a reason to go, it’s not work.”
“I’m very proud of them, and I bless them every day,” said Lau.
He drew on the story of Noah’s Ark, where even though God destroyed the world he had created, he saved Noah and his family and two of every species of animal.
“This is another way to understand the miracle of the future,” said Lau.
He urged students to care for “our brothers and sisters and give to our nation,” and be generous and considerate to others.
“Someone can give their life like a soldier,” he explained. “Someone can give their head to think. Someone can give money, or someone can give their time.”
Lau also reminded students of the importance of prayer in bringing peace to Israel.
“I will tell you that we also have to pray to see peace,” he said. “We must also pray we see Moshiach [the Messiah] soon because we need him.”
Rutgers Chabad executive director Rabbi Yosef Carlebach told Lau he should bring back to Israel the message that in the United States, support for Israel is strong, a sentiment echoed by those present.
Doran Shapiro, a Rutgers alumnus from Englewood, told him, “Know that America and New Jersey in particular support Israel. You can always count on New Jersey to help out.”
Rigel Jamett, a sophomore planning and public policy major from New Haven, Conn., told Lau, “You should know we in America will do all we can to support Eretz Yisrael.”