Israel, Actions and consequences… Don’t feel fear, feel Pride!

Concluding the reading of Sefer B’minbar this week has ben tremendously insightful.  Parashat Maasei deals with the Journeys of The Israelites until the moment that they come in close proximity to The Promised Land, it is there that The Book of Numbers ends and Deuteronomy begins.  This transition is not just merely a stylistic one; it is not even about the ending of one Book of The Torah and the beginning of another.  This transition is about a brand new generation that is about to take over.  This transition signals the moment when everyone around Moses was actually born in freedom.  This new generation of Israelites sees the world, their role in history and their relationship with God in a very different way than the previous generation.  Parashat Maasei is such a turning point that it has its own separate melody to chant when we read from it.  It really signals the end of an era and the beginning of another.  It recounts the journeys of The Israelites, the hope and the promise that their children are about to receive.

The last few weeks have been some of the most difficult ones that I can ever recall.  Yes, it has mostly to do with what has been happening in Israel.  Like many of us, I have been experiencing a feeling that goes from euphoric pride all the way to horrible pessimistic fear in terrible emotional roller coaster like swings.  I think that finally, at least for the time being I have come to terms with what is happening in a very unique yet simple way.  I have decided to stop apologizing for Israel!  I have decided that I will no longer try to justify Israel’s position or actions to anyone, because both of those need NO Justification.  I have also made the conscious decision that no matter what I see in the news or read on the internet there is only one feeling that I am allowed to feel: PRIDE!

How did I come to this decision, which by the way I realize is the same exact conclusion that many of us have arrived at in the past days?  Very simple, there was one story that came out of Israel that completely changed me and set things in perspective.  Do you know that the majority of Holocaust Survivors in Israel do not run for shelter from The Hamas Rockets when they hear the siren sound?   I heard one of them say on TV: “Hitler could not kill me, these barbaric terrorists won’t touch me either!”  That is all I needed to hear!

Let me share with you where I think we stand.  I am not a political analyst; I am a Rabbi so forgive me if I don’t engage in a profound political analysis of the crisis in the region.  My approach is merely spiritual and perhaps also historically grounded.  We are that same new generation from The Torah; so many of us have had so little contact with any sort of adversity in our life… I mean the type of adversity that comes from being hated for being different.  By being different I mean, belonging to a people that is MORAL above all others, that respects life even in war and that is like a thorn in the side of humanity because we are a constant reminder to others that one cannot simply do whatever one desires, even to ones enemies!

We are a generation that finds it hard to understand why we need to supply people that hate us with medicines or water or electricity.  We are a generation that really has a hard time realizing that at the same time that our brothers and sisters in Israel fight for their lives, believe it or not they are the best hope the children of our enemies have for their own future!  Yet, because just like the Israelites that stood at the border of The Promised Land and the historical context that Moses provided, we too need to remember who we are and where we came from!  We need to remember that the worst thing that could ever happen to us is to become like those who hate and destroy and glorify death instead of sanctifying life.

If you need perspective for the days ahead, think of this:  The same world that sits and condemns Israel from the floor of The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva is exactly the same world that did not lift a finger to help anyone in our families when the Nazis where trying to exterminate our people.  We owe it to ourselves not to let their empty hateful words do any harm to our souls.  Israel is fighting a just war, Israel is absolutely in the right and Israel is the constant reminder that we stand up for ourselves because if we left it to the nations of the world there wouldn’t be a single one of us left right now.  I know these weeks have seemed long, as Israel continues advancing Operation Protective Edge, lets keep the men and women of The IDF in our prayers.  May they complete their mission speedily and unharmed and bring back much needed peace and quiet to our beloved State of Israel.  Thank you is not enough to express how we feel about what they do for our People every day!

I also urge you, if you have not already done so.  Please call our elected representatives and thank them for their amazing support of Israel.  Every single one of them in The Nevada Congressional delegation has made us absolutely proud with their steadfast and unwavering support.  And, by the way, their support is not just a metaphor.  The Iron Dome defense system that has probably saved many hundreds of lives in Israel is a direct result of The U.S. Congress getting involved and making sure that Israel got what it needed to be safe.  If there was ever a time to call and say thank you, now is the time!

So, what do we tell our children?  What do we say when they see hate all around them?  How do we explain the masses of exuberant hate mongers that have tried to take over the streets of so many cities intending to harm us?  I think it is simpler than we think.  We need to be proud of who we are.  We shouldn’t be afraid, we should be proud!  Those who hate do so often out of two things, mainly ignorance but also jealousy!  And so, I think that we can safely tell our children: They hate us because we have something they don’t.  Something they probably will never be able to acquire. When people feel that kind of jealousy they become enraged with hate.  For some reason it seems that as we move forward in time and progress, our enemies move backwards in time into a spiral down of despair where they feel history, the world and destiny have forsaken them and forgotten them.  We have a story of triumph!  We are a People of heroes that rejoice not in harming others but in healing, building and bettering the world!  We are The People who turn nightmares into dreams and dreams into reality and this time, just like every time before throughout our journey, with God’s help we will cause light, love and progress to conquer darkness, fear and despair.

Praised are You Adonai, Our God, Ruler of The Universe… Who crowns your People Israel with Glory!

About the Author
Felipe Goodman lives in Las Vegas where he has been the rabbi of Temple Beth Sholom, a Conservative Congregation for the last 15 years. A native of Mexico City, Felipe grew up as an ardent Zionist and an active Jewish student leader. He is currently a member of The Executive Council of The Rabbinical Assembly and is working on the completion of his book: Torah From Sin City!