Most of us are familiar with Shakespeare’s famous words – “To be, or not to be–that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer. The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Or to take arms against a sea of troubles.”

Consciously or subconsciously our daily routine forces us to engage inprioritization. Think for a moment about even the most mundane of matters: foods we eat, exercise regiments (or not) or daily scheduling . All require a thought process to determine how to proceed. Even in our spiritual lives, decisions are made based on our personal priority.  While often the answer is blatantly obvious and just a matter of overcoming our laziness, sometimes it is much more complex because intellectually we can find justification in proceeding in more than one way. An example may be found in this week’s Torah portion where the text juxtaposes the laws of refraining from work on the Sabbath with building the Mishkan (Tabernacle). Since both laws are of paramount importance, the sequence of verses teaches that building a Tabernacle does not take precedence over the laws of Shabbat.

In other words, the Torah illustrates the Shakespearean question: how should we behave, or perhaps should we behave differently? This is one of those questions which is much easier to pose than to answer, and perhaps it is even wrong for someone other than the persons involved to interfere with the process.  Besides the “Shadow” no one knows what lurks in the heart of man, and thus we have no right to prejudge or make decisions for others. Thus, instead of offering an opinion, I am only going to share a story and let you decide on the parenting decisions. The story below involves a member of my synagogue in New Zealand who decided to move to Melbourne, Australia as the Jewish community was stronger and a better environment for his children.  His son, Sam, eventually made Aliyah and joined the IDF as a lone soldier.

Sam was finishing a gruesome sixty mile exercise with his unit that ended in Masada.  Strange whispering was taking place among his commanding officers, but Sam was oblivious to what was happening and just physically and emotionally spent.  Although thousands of miles away from Melbourne, he had strong support from his adopted family and many friends but still missed his life back home. He said everyday was hard for him being so far away from his family. Celebrating accomplishments was often the most difficult because he wanted his family to share in his  special days.

Unbeknown to Sam, his father had arranged with the army to meet his son on Masada and share in this momentous event. His flight was a short thirty hour trip, and he arrived a few hours before the ceremony and surprised his son with hugs and tears. He spent a day with his son and then turned around for the return voyage. I don’t know what motivated the father to make that trip, but I do know that its an encounter neither will forget .

I intended to write about the Jewish American Ice Dancer who won Gold at Sochi. I was going to mention that I think it’s important to give credit where credit is due, and I especially feel proud giving credit to Jews who are deserving of credit. But conversely, I find it a shamefully intrusive to mention someone’s religion when the achievement has nothing to do with his religion. I have heard so many condemn the press when a crime is being investigated and it is reported that a Jew from Brooklyn is the target of their investigation. Does his religion have anything to do with committal of the crime? Although it was an amazing accomplishment for the young lady to win gold, her being Jewish had no bearing on her accomplishment.  

Sam’s story is entirely different as the beauty of Yiddishkeit enveloped his childhood and gave him the courage and convictions for life altering decisions. Being Jewish was his motivation for Aliyah and joining Tzahal. Being Jewish was the reason why his family left a comfortable lifestyle in New Zealand and emigrated to Australia and being Jewish played a pivotal role in his father decision to fly for sixty hours to be at his son’s side in Israel. 

Sam heard the question of Shakespeare and responded “To Be” is my answer. To be a Jew not merely in title but to be a Jew in framing my future and cultivating an enduring bond with my family, my people and my land.   


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Jack


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