Gila Daman

Role of the diaspora Jew — and it’s not your wallet

Did the catchy title grab your attention? Of course, I don’t mean to say our monetary contributions are not helping Israel. But there is something even more vital, more essential that we, Jews living in the Diaspora, can do.

Thinking of my friends who have made aliyah, I’ve been feeling powerless. How much love can I send them? How many air hugs? How can I express to them how in awe I am of what they have sacrificed to make the survival of the Jewish state, and let’s be honest — the Jewish people — their forefront priority in life. Enduring the usual challenges of life: financial struggles, raising a family, etc, only accentuated by moving to a foreign country with a different language and culture, far away from their families — not to mention a country which has been fighting for its very survival since it’s inception 70+ years ago.

What can I, someone who does not hear the call to pack up and leave the comfort of my American roots, do? Whatever it is seems to pale in comparison.

Then I think about the root of Israel — that it is a country founded on the values of Judaism. I think about the new home I will soon be moving to and how we chose a home where we would have adequate space and appliances to prepare milk and meat products separately.  I think about how much easier life would be if I didn’t have to pay attention to these details and how strange it is that they come from a commandment in the Bible not to cook a baby goat in its mother’s milk.

I ponder the definition of chok, a law that doesn’t have a logical reason, the category of mitzvot from which kashrut stems. I realize that through this seemingly arbitrary separation, G-d is showing us that to make order out of chaos, we must start by separating things into categories. Even if in the beginning the distinctions are arbitrary, just start! (Again, I’m moving soon, so I have a keen appreciation for decluttering and simplifying life.)

I think about other rules Judaism has for how we live: how we conduct business, how we treat others, how we prepare animals for consumption, even down to the order in which we tie our shoes!

These rules, which I’ve oft-resented because they make me feel confined, are there to cultivate our awareness. To make us pause, think, and then act with intention. They are stepping stones for becoming sensitive, caring individuals. Another example is how one reason we cover the challah at kiddush on Shabbat is so it is not embarrassing when we bless the wine first — all the more so, are we to be compassionate to the feelings of our fellow man!

These rules — the mitzvot — are the essence of Judaism. And Judaism is the essence of Israel, the Jewish state. So by transitive property, when we Jews in the diaspora strengthen our commitment to, and take pride in, the intricate nuances of Jewish observance, we are strengthening the Jewish state!

Alas, if only it were that simple! Being a Jew, I look at my own people with a critical eye at times. They are like family: you know how complicated they can be, how imperfect they are — we are human after all!

As an outsider, I look at other religions — Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism — which also embody compassion. The grass is always greener! But I’m sure if I’d be part of that community I’d come to know the nuances in them as well. As the saying goes, ‘Don’t judge a religion by its practitioners’ — we are all human!

Many Jews have left Judaism and turned to Buddhism and other Eastern religions for spirituality. It’s not that Judaism isn’t spiritual, but rather the type of Jewish education we got in school was diluted.

Somehow, due to all of the above, it seems we lose track of the essence of Judaism, much of which is to cultivate compassion toward others.

Judaism can bring peace. The mitzvot are there to promote mindfulness.

If Israel were a Buddhist/Jainist state, would people see it as an aggressor? It goes against its very nature! There is a difference between being aggressive, which is hostile, and being assertive, which is standing up for one’s boundaries in a healthy way. Israel is assertive. Any person, any country, needs to be assertive to survive.

No country is perfect. No politics are 100% uncorrupted. But the world is judging Israel with the wrong yardstick. They’re projecting their own agendas, morality, etc. But it’s simply not so.

Each time a Jew observes a mitzvah, he is a testament to the fabric of Judaism. And Judaism is the fabric of the Jewish state, a state whose army plans ahead and strategizes how it can retaliate against the terrorists who are attacking them while protecting as many civilian lives as possible.

Now, after knowing all this, if people still want Israel to be won over by terrorists, well, that’s a very scary world to be living in.

For all people, all peoples, who practice a way of life that promotes connection, inner peace, and harmony, you are my brother.

Can the world please stop singling out/picking on Jews? This is getting old!

Take a breath. Cultivate a mindful existence. A joyous world awaits.

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