Lost Soul Syndrome

So, I’m riffling through Facebook…oops, didn’t mean to date myself…browsing…and keep coming across one of the most talked about subjects on the internet. Israel! Israel’s rights. Israel’s rightful borders. Israel and its neighbors. Israel and Obama, Putin and Russia, Iran, Egypt and other foes or friends.

Consistent through it all and what everyone virtually talks about is our obligation to defend it, fight for it, aggressively lobby for it and elect friendly politicians to preserve it. I think most rational Jews agree Obama is not a friend of Israel.

All sorts of tactics are bandied about. From one extreme, like Israel going to war or wiping out its enemies to the other, sitting and praying, even exclusively so, ignoring the shared obligation to defend and fight on its behalf.

Here in the United States these extremes are manifest in op-eds, ad-buys, talk-shows and political mediums. Attempting to “out” Israel’s enemies and so-called “friends” to highlighting its supporters and apologists.

Or, ignoring and even defending the Obama Administration no matter the deleterious impact of its destructive and adversarial policies towards Israel. This takes money, rubbing shoulders with politicians and government officials with cunning and passion and we have an abundance of individuals eagerly willing to fill these roles and accomplish these goals.

One huge roadblock. It’s called “lost soul syndrome!”

It’s a syndrome that places people where they don’t belong and involves them in matters they have no business being in. In other words these brilliant know-it-alls are not too well suited for the assignments they’ve undertaken.

Proof is in the pudding:

1) The Iran deal is a fait accompli.

2) Rock throwing and stabbings are still ongoing.

3) Jews are not allowed to pray at their rightful holy sites, even those that have no obvious or historical connection to Muslims or the Islamic faith.

4) Israel’s own enemies still sit in the Knesset as members of parliament and incite against their “own” land and citizens by inviting and encouraging its enemies to continue their war.

5) Israelis must still contend with incoming rockets from Lebanon and Syria rained down upon them with impunity.

6) Finally, the UN, the den of iniquity, still continues its singular mission to delegitimize Israel in the eyes of the world in their continuing effort to weaken Israel in the one area they lag behind. The war of words and battleground of ideas. A public relations campaign being waged and led by the UN. Not just a war against Israel but a war against Jews worldwide.

So what’s gone wrong? Especially when you have all these rabbis, lay-leaders and politicians doing such a brilliant job?

It’s the “lost soul syndrome.”

A story is told about a businessman and his coachman trying to reach the big city for Shabbat. As luck would have it a few miles out of town a wheel comes off its spindle and they’re stuck. The coachman decides it’s best to run into town to find the local blacksmith and have him come fix the carriage or tow it back to town.

Having arrived he was told the local smithy had already closed for the day and there’s nothing to be done till after Shabbat. So what does a good Jewish coachman do? He rents a room in the local inn, washes up, dresses in his best Shabbat finery and off to shul he goes.

Meanwhile, back on the side of the highway the rich man sees his coachman is nowhere in sight so he proceeds to test his mechanical prowess. For his effort, he ended up covered in tar, horse feces and mud with nothing to show for it. Ultimately, he trudges into town right before Shabbat with barely any time to prepare, exhausted and dirty.

When he finally arrived at shul, he sees his rosy-cheeked scrubbed coachman all shiny for Shabbat and fully enjoying the prayers while he can barely sit and focus.

When they finally came up to heaven and were brought before the Heavenly Court, the coachman was lauded for his Shabbat preparation and worship while the wealthy merchant was lauded for his attempt to fix the coach, thus alleviating the coachman’s responsibility.

Ultimately, it was decided that both these souls would be sent back down to earth since neither had fulfilled its specific purpose even though each acted altruistically. They were lost souls! Neither soul did what it was supposed to do. The coachman became a wealthy merchant and the merchant tried to be a coachman.

As a rabbi, it’s a shame to see “rabbis” delving singularly in the political and financial fray while lay-people and politicians are wont to remind Jews of their moral and ethical obligations and the “high bar” Israel must live up to. How topsy-turvy have we become?!

I wonder, why rabbis must raise funds to convince the world of Israel’s political legitimacy? Instead of utilizing their prowess and spending their money and time in the realm of their expertise. To concentrate their Gd-given talents and disciplines to the spiritual foundation that Israel lacks, no less than its material scarcity.

While politicians and diplomats should speak up on behalf of Israel’s security and political legitimacy ecclesiastical leaders should mainly stick to their bailiwick. The spiritual foundation of Israel and its biblical/halachic status.

Perhaps, if all sides stuck to their professions and fought for their principles, we would end up real winners and overcome all the odds arrayed against us.

But that would take humility and objective self-appraisal. It’s rare and difficult to achieve. It would mean less fame and all that comes along with it. It would take selflessness and self-sacrifice on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people. But it’s not as sexy nor does it come with much fanfare.

As a rabbi I appeal to rabbis to return to the rabbinate. Let the merchants and politicians do their jobs. Don’t lose your souls. Don’t be beguiled by the transient bling and money of those rabbis who have.

May G-d have mercy on their lost souls! May they find their spiritual buoy and cease floating adrift like flotsam in a stormy sea.

About the Author
Graduate of the Rabbinical College of Greater Miami and Central Lubavitch Yeshivah in NY. Rabbi in Hollywood, FL leading its community as the Chabad Emissary and member of Florida Friends of Lubavitch for over 25 years. "Father and grandfather is something I'm most proud of and strive to get better."
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