Right or Responsibility? Our Obligation to Israel

If someone gives me a gift for safekeeping, is it my right or responsibility to preserve it and hold onto it?

Some might say it is both.

But ultimately, it is my responsibility.

At times, the media, and the Israeli government itself, have voiced Israel’s “right to protect herself.”

But in truth, the correct word in this context, too, is responsibility.

While the differences may seem subtle, in actuality the underlying attitudes are worlds apart:

The government has the right — implying choice — to defend its country.

The government has the responsibility — implying obligation — to defend its country.

When our loved ones’ lives are in danger, is it a choice or obligation to protect them?

When we view Israel’s existence — her earth and her people — not simply as our right but as our responsibility and look at the land through that lens, that’s when we’re most committed to it, come what may.

We might have other pressing things to worry about…but Israel’s our obligation.

We might want to succumb to world opinion…but Israel’s our obligation.

We might want to give it away  in the name of peace…but Israel’s our obligation.

The question for most of us who are not in a governmental position of influence is, how do we make Israel our responsibility and obligation? What does that look like?

Through strengthening our own personal Jewish identity.

And how does that affect Israel, and the wider world?

The impact we have on Israel: Our efforts can’t help but lift the morale of a country who so clearly depends not only on an exceptional intelligence and army, but a global community of support.

In addition to the spiritual impact of our good deeds and prayers, which person who is struggling wouldn’t be filled with a sense of strength and well-being knowing there are others that are thinking about him/her?

The Jews of Israel need to feel our support. But our support needs to be expressed in action to send the message home: My heart is with you in this charity that I give/we are thinking about you in our prayers/my soul is bound with yours in my commitment to more Jewish learning.

The message we send to its neighbors and the world: When the world sees a Jewish people that is immersed in their own Judaism, from thousands of college students attending a lively Shabbat dinner to synagogues all across the globe filled with Jews connecting to their Creator to Jewish schools filled with the vibrant energy of our leaders of tomorrow, we tell the world, “We are teeming with life! We have an unbreakable identity and we’re here to stay. Despite all the attempts to obliterate us, we are alive and well, doing the same Shabbat, the same prayer, the same Jewish learning that Jews have been doing from the beginning of time.”

Finally, there is the heartfelt message we send to G-d Almighty Himself: Our Father, You are the eternal guardian of Israel “Who neither slumbers nor sleeps.” But we are tired. So tired of being in pain, of seeing our people in such a vulnerable state. We are fulfilling our moral responsibility and obligation. In the merit of our spiritual arsenal of good deeds, may You “wipe away the tears from every face,” and usher in an era of prosperity and peace.

About the Author
Rabbi Yossy Gordon is the Executive Vice-President of Chabad on Campus International. He makes his home in Miami Beach with his wife Rochel and their children.
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