Who Will Answer the Little Girl in Aleppo?
Recently, a convoy of thousands of women and children trying to escape from eastern Aleppo was brought to a screeching halt by the Syrian government — one day after the Assad regime committed to evacuating innocent civilians. As a “genocide” unfolds in the streets of Aleppo, dictators are taking note and are learning a very powerful lesson: that they can get away with mass murder.
As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently stated, “Since September, the Security Council has failed to adopt three resolutions that could have enabled a humanitarian truce, evacuation of civilians and the entry of lifesaving aid.”
So what do we do? When people are too fixated on the latest iPhone or their next vacation destination, will the women and children in Aleppo just have to wait?
In the midst of bombed-out cities, houses and schools, little girls are asking, “Mommy, are we going to survive?”
It is the birthright of each child in Aleppo to be safe. But who is going to answer this young girl’s question? And what will the answer be?
Outside of the UN building in New York there is a wall bearing the inscription, “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they learn war anymore.”
Perhaps the UN should reference last week’s Torah portion, which teaches us about Shimon and Levi. They are outraged that their sister, Dina, has been violated and kidnapped. So the brothers decimate the entire village of Schem (modern-day Nablus) and rescue her. This story is the source of our Jewish tradition that adulthood begins at the age of 13, because Shimon and Levi are referred to as men when they draw their swords to protect their sister.
How could it be that those who are commanded to keep the Torah associate their mandated age for adulthood with a seemingly unpleasant story?
The answer is that when there is an innocent, vulnerable child — like the girl in Syria — then our Torah is teaching us that being a man means you risk your life to secure her freedom.
World leaders have been very calculating and cautious in their responses to the Syrian civil war. But the question isn’t about becoming the world’s police force; it is about doing what is right and protecting innocent lives. This is the measure of a man or woman. They must be prepared to go to battle for what is right.
When someone is in pain and — quite frankly — is of no political significance, Judaism says we must risk our lives to help him. That is the lesson for each child in his or her transition to adulthood during a bar or bat mitzvah. Who will stand up and tell the little girl in Aleppo that she will be saved?
Rabbi Areyah Kaltmann is the Executive Director of Chabad Columbus.