Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
“O for your kiss! For your love / More enticing than wine, / For your scent and sweet name – For all this they love you.
Take me away to your room, / Like a king to his rooms – / We’ll rejoice there with wine. / No wonder they love you!”
Song of Songs 1:2-4 - Translation by Marsha Falk
So, tradition teaches, was the kiss experienced so sweetly on Mount Sinai between the finite bride Israel and the Infinite Bridegroom beneath a chupah attended by angels.
Only forty-nine days earlier God delivered the people through the birth waters of the sea into the midbar, an awe-inspiring expanse of earth and sky, where death stared them in the face, and where life teemed, and authenticity was possible, where a kol d’mamah dakah (a “soft murmuring sound”) was heard even from within the devastating silence, and where the “Word” was at last spoken.
There in the midbar God and Moses met “face to face” and Eternity uttered the Name.
A kiss more enticing than wine, the “I” of God forged a covenant of light with the people Israel.
The Holy One, having revealed Himself before the people b’li shum l’vush (Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev, K’dushat Levi, Parashat Yitro), in raw naked power as a young warrior when He crashed the waves and drowned the Egyptians, now at Sinai (commemorated this past Tuesday evening on Shavuot), for our sake did God step back as a wise old sage without brandishing a sword and instead uttered words of Torah to teach she-ha-olamot y’hiyeh yachol l’kayeim (ibid.) “that the worlds could exist" without overpowering military might.
The Divine Lover and Groom did all this for our sake, so taught the Berditchever Rebbe, that we might walk through the “gates” to holiness and not get stuck in the “gates” of impurity.
On Shabbat Naso, this week, only three days after the Divine wedding on Shavuot, God is still in a most loving mood and blesses His Bride:
May God bless you and keep you; / May God’s face shine towards you and be gracious to you; / May God lift His face towards you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26
Among the most famous blessings in world literature, our sages teach that these three lines promise the fulfillment of every human need and want; wealth, justice, and strength; intelligence, skill, wisdom, intuition, and knowledge; health, compassion, forgiveness, integrity, safety, love, and peace.
This priestly blessing (Birkat Kohanim) represents the highest expression of God’s love. So much so, that the priest was not permitted to offer the blessing on God’s behalf if he hated his community or anyone of its members, or if he was hated by them.
Humbly, the Kohen would ascend the bimah and cover his head with a tallit, and spread his fingers to the shape of a shin, palms towards the earth bestowing blessing from above.
He was never to look the congregation in the eye, and the congregation was to look away as well, because it was then that the Shekhinah would enter the community of Israel.
She was too beautiful and magnificent and inspiring to look upon, for to see Her directly with the naked eye was to peer directly into the face of God, and no one can see God’s face and live.
The former Chief Justice of the Sephardic rabbinical court in Jerusalem, Rabbi Hezkiah Shabtai, originally of Salonika and Aleppo (1862-1950), cited Numbers 6:23: “Speak to Aaron and his sons and say to them, ‘Thus shall you bless the children of Israel.’”
“Amour lahem,” he repeated (“say to them!”). He explained, “Amour in French means love... therefore say, ‘Love them when you are about to bless them. You must love them first.’”
It’s all about love, after all – our covenant with God and each other.
The wedding of The Divine Infinite Bridegroom and Yisrael the Bride was a wondrous thing when it occurred at Sinai, and the blessing of the Kohanim continues that Divine love affair even now – even now.
5.16.13 at 4:34 pm | She was too beautiful, magnificent, and inspiring. . .
5.14.13 at 6:26 am | “Initially, I came to seek answers about the. . .
5.12.13 at 7:44 am | “The morning is extremely important. It is the. . .
5.9.13 at 7:42 am | Love for God, one man’s yearning for his bride,. . .
5.5.13 at 8:00 am | “My life isn’t what you care about. It’s. . .
5.2.13 at 2:46 pm | The deeper purpose of the Shmitta year is to. . .
5.16.13 at 4:34 pm | She was too beautiful, magnificent, and inspiring. . . (170)
6.19.12 at 7:13 am | One has to ask why would so many people would. . . (43)
5.14.13 at 6:26 am | “Initially, I came to seek answers about the. . . (34)
May 14, 2013 | 6:26 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
Bernd Wollschlaeger, born in 1958 in the small German town of Bamberg, is the son of a former Nazi tank commander and member of one of the elite units of the Wehrmacht, the Germany army, for which he was awarded the Knight’s Cross personally by Hitler.
Bernd loved his parents and admired his father, but growing up he needed to know all about what his father refused to discuss with him, what the Nazis did to Europe, Germany and the Jews, and what was his role.
When Palestinian terrorists murdered Israel’s Olympic athletes in 1972, the German press noted that again Jews had been killed in Germany. The fourteen year-old Bernd wanted to know what that meant. However, he could not get a straight answer from his parents. What he learned about the Third Reich at school horrified him. When he asked his father about German crimes his father told him that Bernd’s “teachers were all communists and liars and that a Holocaust never actually existed."
Curious too about Judaism and Jewish faith, Bernd sought out a small orthodox Jewish community in his home town where he met and befriended a Holocaust survivor who began to teach him Judaism. Increasingly rejected by his own family, these mostly elderly Jews became Bernd’s new family.
One day he read about a peace conference being held in a nearby German town for Israeli Jewish and Arab youth organized by Neve Shalom. He decided to attend and from that point on his life would never be the same again. He now wanted to visit Israel.
In 1978 Bernd sailed to the Holy Land. He was reunited with his Israeli and Palestinian friends, fell in love with Vered, one of the young Israeli women, visited his Palestinian friend Chalil, and prayed at the Kotel. There, before the ancient stone wall he felt a spiritual stirring he had never known before. A kindly Orthodox man, watching him in his reverie, approached and encouraged him to seek out and reclaim his n’shamah, his Godly soul.
Bernd returned to Germany, completed his medical degree, converted to Judaism, and made aliyah. These acts severed whatever bond was left with his father and family.
In Israel, Bernd joined the Israeli Defense Forces as a medical officer, served for two years in the West Bank during the first Intifada, married and had a son.
The First Gulf War frightened his American-born wife, and so with a heavy heart he agreed for her sake to move to Florida. They divorced three years later. Bernd remarried and had two more Jewish children. Today he is a practicing family physician and an addiction specialist.
Bernd wrote of his remarkable journey, love of Judaism and Israel, and self-search:
“Initially, I came to seek answers about the Shoah, the crimes committed by Germans against [the Jewish] people, and of course the role my father played during that part of German history. Now I feel that there are other issues I need to explore. Why am I so attracted to this country? Why do I feel at home here? Why does Jewish faith and prayer seem to touch something deep inside me? Now I am searching for who I am. Since we’ve been here in Jerusalem, I’ve felt so close to finding it, but I still don’t know….
Many stories have been told by survivors, but this memoir (publ. by Emor Publishing, 2007) is the first I have read written by a child of a perpetrator.
When his own children asked about his family past, Bernd vowed not to do as his parents had done:
“I decided to break the wall of silence and tell them the truth about me. I needed to express what compelled me to dramatically change my life. I finally had to explore the relationship with my father and how it was overshadowed by the Holocaust. Our unresolved conflict and his denial motivated me to search for answers, and I found them within me and my acquired faith: Against all odds, change is possible...”
Dr. Wollschlaeger spoke to my synagogue community during this year’s Yom Hashoah Commemoration. We came to know of him from our member, Claudia Ehrlich Sobral, a child of survivors and a documentary film maker who produced “Ghosts of the Third Reich” which highlights Bernd and several other descendents of high ranking Nazis confronting the legacy that each carries.
Bernd’s courage to confront the truth and the transformation he underwent in order to create a new life despite his family’s past amazes and inspires. His memoir will move you and I recommend it.
Hag Shavuot Sameach!
May 12, 2013 | 7:44 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
I subscribe to a worthwhile list-serve organized by Dr. Mehmet Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon and professor at Columbia University, called “Real Age” (firstname.lastname@example.org) that regularly sends out health tips. This past week I received a piece called “8 Ways Happy People Start Their Mornings” that began with this statement:
“The morning is extremely important. It is the foundation from which the rest of the day is built. How you choose to spend your morning can often be used to accurately predict what kind of day you are going to have.”
I got to thinking. How do I, myself, enter each day, and why do I do what I do?
Based on the inspiration of Dr. Oz’s list, I offer my own, with a disclaimer that I do not do all 10 every day, though I try and am certain that if I fulfilled them all I would be better for it.
1. Calm beginnings – I need calm and quiet beginnings; no conversation (I’m usually the first one up, so no problem there), no music, no television or radio news; just the sound of the birds outside.
2. Gratitude – Ever since my cancer diagnosis, surgery, and radiation four years ago, every morning I awake and am consciously grateful to be alive. Most mornings I say the Hebrew blessing “Modeh ani l’fanecha Melech hai v’kayam she-he-che-zarta bi nish'mati b’chem'la rabba emunatecha” – “I thank You Sovereign Source of life and existence, that You have returned to me my Godly soul with compassion and faith.”
3. A little bit of resurrection – For me, a very strong cup of French roast coffee brings me a little bit of resurrection each morning. That stimulation helps me feel alive physically and mentally and brings me quickly a sense of well-being.
4. Sweetness – When my children were young, seeing them in the morning filled me with sweet tenderness. They no longer live at home, and so now the first living creature I see is my little dog Sasha whose sweetness is the purest and most unconditional I have ever known.
5. Awareness of being “here” – that is, in the quiet and process of waking up I consciously think of the interaction of four levels of my being – body, mind, heart, and soul, and that being here right now is the most true and natural state.
6. Exercise early – This is the toughest on my list because of the working nature of my life. I find that exercise (for me, brisk walking for an hour in my neighborhood) releases the toxins of yesterday’s concerns so I can begin anew with less burden weighing me down. I try and exercise in the morning (usually 3 or 4 days a week) not only because I feel better for it, but also because research has shown (reported by Dr. Oz some time ago) that morning exercise results in continuing to burn calories throughout the day long after the exercise has ended.
7. The quiet needs of others – I require quiet and calm first thing, and in my family, everyone has the same need. By the time they wake up I am already operating on all cylinders, so respectfully, I stay clear of them until they are ready to engage with me. It’s only fair!
8. Joy – I have learned that I experience the fullest joy when I am consciously appreciative of the blessings in my life; good health, loving family, loyal friends, meaningful work, creative and productive endeavors, open-hearted doing for others, and willful association with just and compassionate causes. Joy and happiness have nothing to do with material wealth, though, as Seinfeld once said, “Not that there is anything wrong with it!”
9. Morning routine – Routine relieves me of heavy decision-making first thing in the day. I have pasted above my desk at home several quotes that I strive to live by (for a future blog). One is Thoreau’s prescription for an unburdened life: “Simplify, simplify, simplify.” Or put another way, some things are just not worth the bother because they really are not important.
10. Expressing love and gratitude to others and doing what I love to do – When I express love and gratitude to those I love and then go about doing the things I love to do early in the day, I find that I am more relaxed, freer of tension and stress, and happier.
I suggest making up your own list and then working to do as much of it as regularly as you can. If I could only do the above 10 every day, I am certain I would be a happier camper!
Happy Mother's Day!!!
May 9, 2013 | 7:42 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
This week’s portion B’midbar (lit. “In the desert”) always precedes the festival of Shavuot that begins on Tuesday evening. Parashat B’midbar is not just a marker that reminds us when Shavuot occurs each year, its juxtaposition joins the season’s themes of wandering, covenant, transcendence, and love.
These themes are amplified in the Haftarah portion from the prophet Hosea. Betrayed by his wife’s promiscuity as another man’s concubine, the prophet perceives in his own tragic personal biography a parallel to the Israelite’s betrayal of God during the period of wandering.
Hosea was a star-filled romantic. He so wanted to forgive his wife her infidelities and welcome her back into his bosom. He prayed not only for personal reconciliation with her but also that God would forgive His own wayward lover, the people of Israel, and reaffirm with them the Covenant they once forged together at Sinai.
The prophet proclaims: V’e-ras-tich li l’o-lam b’tze-dek, u-v’mish’pat, u-v’che-sed, u-v’ra-cha-mim (Hosea 2:21-22) – “I betroth you to me forever; I betroth you to me with steadfast love and compassion; I betroth you to me in faithfulness...”
Love for God, one man’s yearning for his bride, one woman’s passion for her lover, the longing of the soul for the Ein Sof (God), all are joined in B’midbar, Hosea, and Shavuot.
In a wonderful volume called “We – Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love,” the Jungian analyst Dr. Robert A. Johnson explores these themes as they played themselves out in the medieval myth of the hero Tristan and his beloved Iseult the Fair. This is a complicated, moving, beautiful, and tragic tale from 12th century Europe from which “Romeo and Juliet” and other great romantic love tales have sprung.
The story focuses upon the emotional and spiritual journeys of two protagonist lovers, and Dr. Johnson explores what came to be called “Courtly Love:”
“The model of courtly love is the brave knight who worshiped a fair lady as his inspiration, the symbol of all beauty and perfection, the ideal that moved him to be noble, spiritual, refined, and high-minded. In our time we have mixed courtly love into our sexual relationships and marriages, but we still hold the medieval belief that true love has to be the ecstatic adoration of a man or woman who carries, for us, the image of perfection.“
Dr. Johnson explains that when lovers fall “in love” they feel a sense of completion as though a missing part of themselves had been returned to them. They are uplifted as though suddenly raised above the ordinary. They feel spiritualized and transformed into new, better and whole human beings.
The connection of theme in the mythic romantic love tale “Tristan and Isault” and the Revelation at Sinai should now be clear. Dr. Johnson writes:
“Here we are confronted with a paradox that baffles us, yet we should not be surprised to discover that romantic love is connected with spiritual aspiration – even with our religious instinct – for we already know that courtly love, at its very beginning so many centuries ago, was conceived of as a spiritual love, a way of loving that spiritualized the knight and his lady, and raised them above the ordinary and the gross to an experience of another world, an experience of soul and spirit.”
“Tristan and Iseult” is a story describing the yearning of the soul. So too is that great and singular event that Shavuot commemorates. Indeed, the wilderness of Sinai stripped the people of pretense. They were more vulnerable than they had ever known, and in that the expansive uninhabited landscape of quietude they opened their hearts and souls in awe and wonder to God.
It was there that Torah was given and received. It was there that God and the people of Israel, even if but for a moment, were One.
Shabbat shalom and Hag sameach!
May 5, 2013 | 8:00 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
It should be clear that the last thing the Obama Administration wants is to get caught in another Middle Eastern war, with no “good guys” and no viable exit strategy. What else can explain American passivity in the face of 70,000 Syrian dead and 1 million refugees in two years? What else can explain the President’s hedging on his pledge to act if Syria crossed the “red line” of introducing chemical weapons, now that indeed Syria has crossed that “red line?”
So much for the Biblical command, “Thou shalt not stand idly by while your neighbor bleeds.” (Leviticus 19:16)
Bill Clinton confessed that his greatest regret was not acting to stop the genocide in Rwanda. Will Barack Obama make the same confession about Syria one day?
Yes, Syria is embroiled in a nasty civil war. Yes, the Syrian rebels, increasingly radicalized Islamists, are a mixed bag. Yes, Al Qaida is involved. Who should the US support?
In an interview with Terry Gross on “Fresh Air” (April 30, 2014 – “On the Ground in Syria”) the New York Times correspondent C.J. Chivers, who has covered the wars in Libya and Afghanistan and spent time on the ground with Syrian rebels, understands Obama’s resistance to get involved in Syria.
Chivers says that though the rebels distrust and hate the west, they want the west to get involved because they cannot match the Syrian government’s superior fire power. The west, ironically, is their only hope. They do not want American troops in Syria, but they do want weapons, and, a no-fly zone to protect the people from the air.
“Put yourselves in the shoes of the Syrian people,” Chivers said. Your village has been occupied by the Syrian army and then shelled. Everyone has lost someone. Obama says that the “red line” that will provoke American action against the Syrian government is its introduction of chemical weapons, and the Syrian people think:
“My life isn’t what you care about. It’s the nature of my death. So if I die by high explosives, if I die by a bullet, if I die by disappearance because I’m rolled up at the checkpoint, never seen again, that’s OK. That’s a green line? And a SCUD missile’s OK? An airstrike’s OK? But chemical weapons, that’s not OK. I mean there are more than 70,000 killed in this conflict. And to the Syrians, they say those don’t count? But if someone takes the cork off chemical weapons, that’s different. They feel they’ve been abandoned by the world. “
Chivers is a distinguished journalist and observer of this kind of warfare. He is also a former marine who has seen his share of death. He confesses that he has no good recommendation to offer the President were he asked.
Despite American claims to the contrary, there has been a covert airlift of weapons to the rebel forces, probably orchestrated by the CIA, which creates a long-term problem. These weapons have a long life, and one can never know into whose hands they will end up. Maybe they will be used against the US and Israel.
An American response to chemical weapons is meant to deter other countries in the future from using them, but again, to the Syrian people that “red line” was set pretty far out to the right. The chemical weapons have come so late that the west has already tolerated great cost in human life.
The quandary of the Obama Administration is that people are suffering and there are reasons to arm them and reasons not to arm them.
Chivers notes that the Syrian leaders have played perfectly and with cunning calibration (as opposed to Qaddafi in Libya) the tactics of the war to what they thought the West could tolerate. The Syrian government began the battle with arrests, and with each step of the way introduced more violent actions; first came batons and then bullets; then came the army, mortars, and 107 millimeter rockets; then the artillery and air force, helicopters followed later by jets, and then ballistic missiles and chemical weapons.
It’s been like dropping a frog in water and bringing the water to a boil slowly, pushing the “red” line step-by-step forward until so many people have become desensitized by the violence.
“Thou shalt not stand idly by!”
But, what to do? A no-fly zone? Bomb Syrian government positions? Give more weapons to the rebels?
And then what?
May 2, 2013 | 2:46 pm
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
“Any life, no matter how long and complex it may be, is made up of a single moment – the moment in which a person finds out once and for all who s/he is.” (Jorge Luis Borges)
So often it is the inner voices (from tradition, society, family, friends, and mentors) and not our own that influence how we think, feel and behave in the world. These voices either lead us to or take us away from realizing our best selves. When the voices do indeed lead us astray, we need to be able to release them, a thought that came to mind as I read a verse in this week’s parashah describing the institutions of the Shmitta (Sabbatical) and Yovel (Jubilee) years: “You shall proclaim a dror (“freedom” or “release”) throughout the land for all its inhabitants…” (Leviticus 25:10)
This dror specifically refers to land, people and debts in the seventh year. The Shmitta year requires that land lie fallow (i.e. no planting, pruning or harvesting) and that slaves, employees and animals are free to eat what is left in the fields. Deuteronomy 15:1-6 adds that creditors must remit debts owed to them by their neighbors and kinsmen.
The deeper purpose of the Shmitta year is to enable the land to rest, to wipe our slates clean from debt and to return the world to its original pristine order.
The rabbis, however, raised two serious questions about the Shmitta year:  What happens to the livelihood of the community during Shmitta? and  What happens to our willingness to make loans to the needy according to the spirit of a mitzvah in Deuteronomy 15:9: “Beware that there be not a base thought in your heart.”
Noticing that the people were not loaning money to the poor because of the Shmitta’s remission of debt, Hillel the Elder (1st century BCE) instituted a legal formula called the Prozbul, whereby a creditor could still claim his debts after the Shmitta year despite the biblical injunction against doing so. The Prozbul was a document that turned over supervision of the loan to the beit din (Jewish court) which would collect and repay the debt thus encouraging generosity, enabling the poor to borrow and the rich to secure their loans (Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 37a).
Since the laws of both Shmitta and Yovel only apply in the land of Israel, and Yovel applies only when all the Jewish people are living in Israel, until the Zionist movement Shmitta and Yovel mattered little to Diaspora Jewish communities.
However, Zionists complained that if farmers did not work the land the nascent settlement movement's existence would be threatened. In response, lenient rabbinic authorities justified setting the laws of the Shmitta year aside based on the principle of sha’at hadechak (“undue hardship”).
In 1888-89, a Hetter Mechira (“A Bill of Sale”) was developed to permit Jewish farmers to sell their land to non-Jews (i.e. Arabs), similar to the selling of hametz (leven) to non-Jews during Passover, so that the Jews could continue to work the land and survive even during the Shmitta. After the Shmitta, the land would revert back to the former Jewish owners.
Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of Palestine, wrote of another problem in not showing leniency towards the Biblical law:
“Even worse is the potential condemnation of Judaism and widespread rejection of Torah observance that could result from a strict ruling…”
Rav Kook reasoned that a strict ruling would demonstrate that Judaism is incompatible with the modern world and the building of a Jewish state.
The principle of taking into account the impact of Biblical law on individuals and community and the necessity of reinterpreting tradition in the modern era is a core reason that Judaism and the Jewish people have survived 3500 years, longer than any other people anywhere in the world.
On a personal level too, this portion challenges us about the importance of becoming who we really are. In this spirit, I suggest that we consider this question: From what and how will I release myself (dror) this year and thereby find out who I really am?
May this year become a dror (release) for each of us.
The next Shmitta year is 2014-2015 (5775)
April 30, 2013 | 7:39 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
Senator Barbara Boxer has introduced a bill co-sponsored by 18 Democrats and Republicans that would enable Israel to join a group 37 other favored nations whose citizens need not carry visas to enter the United States.
Now, any Israeli who wants to travel to the US needs to purchase round-trip plane tickets before being issued a travel visa.
What is the problem? Why do Israelis not have this right already? After all, they are among America’s closest allies in the world?
The answer is – Israelis should, except for one problem. Israel does not grant the same courtesy to all American citizens who enter Israel. Israel, in fact, restricts the travel of Palestinian-American citizens.
The article below explains more fully the presumed rationale for this restriction as well as the human consequences of Israel’s policy. Though security is always an uppermost Israeli concern, should not all American citizens be treated equally by Israel?
I agree with the view that the United States should not be able to grant Israeli citizens visa-free travel to the US yet exempt Israel from extending that same courtesy to all US citizens. If an individual of any nation seeks entry to Israel and is a specific security risk, Israel (as any other country) should have the right to refuse him/her on concrete security grounds. But to target any individual because he or she is part of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group is contrary both to American principles and Israeli principles as spelled out in the American Constitution and Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
Senator Boxer’s bill should require equivalent rights to American citizens traveling in Israel, regardless of their ethnic, racial, religious, or national ancestry.
April 29, 2013 | 7:26 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
When I was 9 years old my father died, and my world suddenly changed. Overwhelmed by loss and grief, only the support of family and friends helped me move through that dark period.
What was clear was that I had no control over the ultimate questions of life and death. In the years that followed I compensated by studying and working hard. I thought about God, studied Jewish history, theology, and tradition, became a progressive Zionist, and learned to speak Hebrew, all in the interests of finding safety in something greater than myself.
Indeed, the fear of death and the loss of control are powerful human motivators for both good and bad. Many of us, from fear, turn inward in self-protection against the “other.” We narrow our vision, constrict our hearts, minds and politics, and we focus on our self-interests assuming we have no choice because the “other” guy is a threat.
However, building our lives on fear has consequences. Yoda famously said, “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, [and] hate leads to suffering.” (Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace)
John Steinbeck opined along the same lines saying, “Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts…perhaps the fear of a loss of power.”
Both are right. Though fear is a natural response alerting us to imminent danger, many of us are so plagued by historically embedded fears that we imagine hostile phantoms when none exist.
The challenge is for us to be able to distinguish real and present danger from phantoms, and then be able to evaluate the true measure of the threat and respond appropriately.
Two emails came to me this past week that have drawn me to this consideration of fear. The first was a report circulating on the Internet that all the Jews of Norway had decided en masse (some 1300 souls, according to 2012 population surveys) to leave that country, saying:
"It seems what Hitler failed to achieve the Muslims have accomplished. In a few weeks Norway will be 'Judenfrei.' The last 819 Jews are leaving the country due to its rise in anti-Semitism..."
The implication, of course, is that the world wants the Jews dead, or to vanish. The problem with this Internet "report" is that it is a complete fabrication, according to the Norwegian Jewish Community and the ADL.
The second email came from a Israel advocacy organization that began:
“In a hostile and uncertain world, it is reassuring to know that two great democracies—the United States and Israel—continue to find security in their support of one another.”
Yes, of course, the United States and Israel are great democratic societies and strategic partners, but why is it necessary to start from a place of fear to motivate Jews to support Israel financially and otherwise in its legitimate needs?
For years many Jewish organizations have fed on Jewish fear, the Holocaust, Israel’s wars and defense against terrorism, to appeal for money rather than on the blessings of Zionism, our people’s historic and successful building of a modern state based on the prophetic principles of justice and peace as written in Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
It is not surprising, of course, how successful these organizations are because there is in the Jewish heart a deep reservoir of fear. Our history is long and hard, even as it is remarkable and enriched. I believe it is time to stop the fear-mongering. (See my blog from April 15, 2013 - "Israel on Her 65th Birthday - Taking Pride in Her Accomplishments")
Fear-mongering is not only unnecessary, it is counter-productive because it blinds our people’s vision, focuses us on the short-term tactics rather than long-term strategy, divides Jewish community, alienates many of us and our young people, separates us from our allies and true friends, provokes inappropriate speech and action, and satisfies only the most extreme self-fulfilling prophecies of doom.
I take seriously the teaching of Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav: “The whole world is a very narrow bridge; the important thing is not to be afraid.”
In the coming weeks and months due to the important efforts of the Obama Administration to bring Israelis and Palestinians back into negotiations to settle their conflict once and for all, Israelis, the Jewish people and the Palestinians, along with moderate Arab states, will be tested perhaps as never before. Will we continue to build fortresses against each other, or will we build palaces of peace side by side?
I know that either choice carries risk. The greater risk, however, is to do nothing because the status quo is unsustainable, and the longer it continues Israel's democracy and Jewish character will be compromised. As long as both Israel’s and Palestine’s security needs are assured, the risks of making peace, I believe, will be worth it.