As I progress in years, life’s ambiguities have been my one constant companion. Rarely a day goes by when I am not honored to be associated with select individuals who act in a manner that is far beyond the call of duty. I can regale countless personal stories of benevolence that went well beyond normal expectations. In just the past few days I know of two incidents that are true representations of the more positive aspects of religion. In Cleveland, a young man undergoing chemotherapy had his mortgage and Day School tuition for his seven children paid for by strangers. I also know of a widow who had to spend $6,000 to replace her furnace. She wrote a check but had no money in her account; miraculously an envelope with that amount appeared in her mailbox the next day. Thank God random acts of kindness are synonymous with people of all faiths and should be the essence of all Godly people.
However, rarely a day goes by when I am not shocked and horrified by many who claim to represent all that is holy in the world. Sadly, I have to accept my limitations in trying to fathom the unfathomable. Nothing I write can help alleviate our anguish and disillusionment, nor can any explanation I offer be more than a shameless justification of the unjustifiable. On this past Tuesday I awoke and found an email from my son in Israel with the caption: Terror attack in Jerusalem, everyone is ok. Well everyone was not ok; three American rabbis and one British rabbi were murdered in cold blood. The murderers cared nothing about the fact they were all wearing tallit and teffilin and fervently praying to God.
I look to our political leaders for solace and all I hear are sounds of silence. Perhaps a select few express solidarity, but in reality it is little more than talking points and jargon that fail to inject any meaningful support. Last week a dual citizen living in Africa died of Ebola and our president publicly mourned his loss by phoning his relative in Africa. Perhaps he can’t phone the family of the three rabbis as he is doesn’t know if Jerusalem is in Palestine or Israel? Is there a double standard? I heard the Prime Minister of Turkey express his indignation by stating: I can’t approve an attack on a house of worship regardless of the religion. Imagine the chutzpah! No regret or condolences given, but rather a lack of approval for which he becomes the saint of the world press for showing solidarity with Israel. I turned on Al Jazeera to hear what our enemies were thinking. They showed clips of Palestinians clapping and handing out sweets while many in the Arab world celebrated the death of Jews with zealous joy. I heard the European Union’s new president stating how unfortunate it is that Israeli policies have yet to meet the enlightened expectations of the Europeans. She feels the Israelis must give up on their occupation and do more to extend a hand in peace. I think we know our history all too well; caving to their demands would result in Israel disappearing before anyone comes to our rescue.
Yes, we do want to pray at our Temple Mount. Is that really such a painful request? Are we hurting anyone or are we just asking to be left in peace? Are we taking land,or as cousins are we asking only to share it with harmony and mutual respect? Think of what could have been avoided if in gratitude to the Israel government for allowing Muslims to pray and control the mosque, Israel, the rightful owners, were given the rights to pray at its holiest site? We don’t want to trespass on their building or sanctuary, we wish only to stand on our holy land and open our hearts and mouths in prayer. The precedent is already established in Chevron at the Cave of Machpelah and in Bethlehem by the gravesite of Kever Rachel. Is it really congruent with religion to kill a three year old girl because people are angry? Is it really acceptable to enter the sanctuary of a synagogue and murder in cold blood because of anger and resentment? I remember the reaction of the Jewish world when Baruch Goldstein acted with violence against a mosque. The condemnation from the overwhelming majority of Jewish leaders was immediate.
I hate to think that there is no solution and that this week’s Torah portion offers the only real way out. And the LORD said unto her: Two nations are in thy womb, and two peoples shall be separated; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people. Sadly the Torah may be prophesizing the future by stating that peace can only be achieved when the stronger son acts accordingly.
I think as Jews we must be the world’s moral citizens; upholding those values that are sacred and eternal. Morality should never be an excuse for passivity, rather a strong reaction to negate immorality is required. To be moral one must solidify an opinion and remain resolute in their position in spite of global condemnation and political ramifications. To be moral means you may always represent the minority in this world and the majority in the next world. To be moral, however, also demands that your behavior is always in sync with what God demands and man understands.
Rabbi Jack Engel