Shabbat Shalom: Turning fire into light

Mar 7, 2024 | Article

By: Nelly Ben Tal
Senior Israel Emissary (Shlicha)

Last weekend, I took part in “Golshim L’chaim – Ski to Live“, a special project in its 17th year thanks to the Aspen JCC with the support of JEWISHcolorado.

Every year, we are privileged to host a group of disabled army veterans from Israel. They continue their rehabilitation process through this 10-day program, during which they build their mental abilities, gain confidence in their bodies, and do incredible things on the mountain, regardless of their disability or trauma.

While saying goodbye to such an outstanding group of young Israelis, I realized I was experiencing some unexplained pains in my body. I noticed that my eyes were getting heavy, and my body was covered with pain. The pain was all over:
in Yossi’s hand,
in Nitai’s leg,
in Amiram’s kidneys,
in Omri’s intuition,
in Adel’s hand and broken heart,
and in Sapir’s beautiful smile.

Although I understood that those body parts were not mine, I still felt the pain. Quick research led me to learn about Phantom pains, which I had never heard about before. (Phantom pain is when you feel pain in a body part that you no longer have.) The pain was overwhelming, and I knew it was the pain of the entire nation right now. While real phantom pains are much more difficult, it still felt like I found some kind of “diagnosis” for the pain I have felt since October 7.

Suddenly, I realized how much light these Israelis brought into the community.

Two days earlier, I was standing on the second floor of the Chabad Aspen JCC on Thursday night with Rabbi Mintz and his wife Lieba and I saw their happiness at bringing this group together. Shalom, a young man full of energy played the violin while singing and praying. Everyone felt the togetherness, the unity, the love and care for each other.

The focus of this week’s Torah Portion, Vayakhel is the call for people for the purpose of community building in a joint, call to action. Among other things, it defines what rest is – the prohibition of lighting fire. In my view, all of these are interconnected in such a special way.

Since October 7th, it feels like all we are aiming to do is to be together and take action. We try hard to turn the horrible fire that destroyed and killed on that horrific Shabbat into a big collective light.

This past weekend’s experience and this Shabbat’s Parasha both remind us of the importance of community and the power of shared action, as well as the importance of transforming fire and pain into light.

Please email Nelly Ben Tal at with questions or comments.