Friday, 7 May 2010

Israel Matzav: What does your rabbi say about Israel?

What does your rabbi say about Israel?

I'm going to post a small excerpt of a long article about a recent rabbi's sermon and then I'm going to go off on a tangent that the author never intended. Regardless, I urge you to read the whole thing, because the article has a message for you and you're not going to find it otherwise in this post.

In a recent Shabbat sermon, the senior rabbi at one of Baltimore's largest congregations explained why, whether he liked it or not, he felt compelled to talk about Israel. He suggested that due to the voluminous number of e-mails he received discussing an article written by Ed Koch and a sermon delivered by local rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg, he felt compelled to discuss the topic on everyone's mind.

The opening remarks of the sermon reminded me of Obama's recent statement that "... whether we like it or not, America remains a military superpower." And while Americans have come to expect Obama's ridiculous apologies for America's exceptional nature, American Jews do not and should not accept this attitude from anyone -- least of all our rabbis. Our history and faith dictate, and our survival depends upon, our leaders -- our rabbis -- celebrating Israel's greatness and the success of the Jewish people.

The rabbi discussed a recent poll in which Israel joined Iran, Pakistan, and North Korea at the bottom of a list of 28 nations viewed favorably in the world. From there, rather than discuss what American Jews could do to help improve world perception of Israel, the rabbi politicized the two-state solution by characterizing it as an internal Israeli policy debate rather than what it is -- a fight for Israel's survival. Though there was no coherent message being conveyed, the rabbi used two words to describe Israel that said more than anything else in the speech -- "occupying state."

The clear message was that Israel is occupying land on which Jewish people are not entitled to live. After the service, I told the rabbi that I was offended by his description of Israel as an occupying entity -- a description reserved for use by anti-Semites. I suggested that, especially in light of recent rifts in U.S.-Israel relations and the virulent growth of anti-Semitism globally, rabbis need to choose their words wisely. He responded, "Oh, I see, you're from the far right."

The rabbi then stated that he would use another term if I could suggest something appropriate to describe what Israel was doing. I looked at him inquisitively and asked how Israel could be occupying land that God gave to the Jewish people thousands of years ago. And with his next question, the rabbi took the conversation to a new low for Jews and Christians the world over: "How do you know that? Just because the Bible says so?"

Please read the whole thing, and to the person who wrote the article, if this is your shul, please find another one.

There was one thing this rabbi said that was correct - he really is compelled to talk about Israel. But he's so blind that he doesn't recognize why. It's not because it's on everyone's mind. Rather, he's compelled to talk about Israel, because Israel is the largest Jewish community in the World today, because six million Jewish lives are in jeopardy in Israel and because if Jews don't give a damn then - as Mordechai told Esther in the Purim story - revach v'hatzala ya'mod la'Yehudim mi'makom acheir (salvation will come to the Jews from elsewhere). Our rabbis tell us that verse is written in lashon sagi nahor (as if a blind person can see). In other words, the verse means exactly the opposite of what it says. Mordechai is telling Esther - if you don't step forward to save the Jews, no one else will. And the proof is the following words v'at u'beit avich tovaidu (and you and your father's house will be lost).

But Mordechai follows up with a message that ought to ring to every comfortable Jew in America today: "U'mee yodea im l'eit kazot higaat la'malchut" And who knows whether it was precisely for a moment like this that you reached the throne? Who knows whether it was precisely for a moment like this - when your brethren in Israel are facing a nuclear armed Ahmadinejad - that American Jewry reached the lofty status that it has reached today?

Where the hell are you people? Is it going to be left to a Rabbis' march again? It's 1939. Wake up before 1942 and 1943 hit us again! Why are there no Jews protesting in the streets?

Read the whole thing.

Israel Matzav: What does your rabbi say about Israel?

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