Our First Obligation
It is an intrinsic element of Judaism to approach the beginning of a New Year with introspection. During the Days of Awe, we look at ourselves and ponder what we did in the course of the past year. It's just as necessary to perform the same act of self-examination as a community.
In conducting our communal cheshbon nefesh — a spiritual accounting of our lives — we must first and foremost recognize that the past year has been one of war and privation for many of our brothers and sisters in Israel.
Terrorist attacks out of Gaza — and then from Lebanon — left several Israelis dead, and three Jewish soldiers kidnapped and still missing. Then came the Katyushas. Thousands of rockets launched by Hezbollah from Lebanon rained down on northern Israel this summer as part of a war with the terror group. All told, 159 Israeli citizens were killed either in combat, or as a result of missile fire on Israeli towns and villages. The war displaced tens of thousands of others, and destroyed homes and businesses in the process. Some 1,000 Lebanese died as well.
We have many responsibilities as Jews. We must build our own community, educate our children, care for our sick and elderly, and help Jews in need wherever they may be. Each of us and the community as a whole must work to do better in all of these endeavors. But our first communal responsibility this year will be to do what we can to aid Israel in this time of recovery.
Many synagogues in the region have embraced the Israeli Emergency Fund of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, and will speak of its importance during the course of High Holiday services. Supporting this cause, which goes to assist Israelis who have been affected by the war, is vital to helping the country recover from the devastation caused by bombs themselves and by resulting fires. Giving as generously as possible to the fund is a must.
May we all be inscribed for good in this coming year, and may we all find within ourselves the commitment to ensure that the sparks of Jewish life continue to burn brightly. Each of us has the power to shape and change the course of Jewish history for the better. Let's not waste another moment before doing so.
From the publishers and staff of the Jewish Exponent to all of our readers and their families, may 5767 be a year of peace, health and happiness. L'Shanah Tovah Tikatevu!
Who Should Apologize?
Pope Benedict XVI got in more trouble than he could have imagined last week when, in the course of a lecture at a German university, he quoted from a debate in which a Byzantine emperor disparaged the link between Islam and violence.
The speech, which sought to denounce religiously inspired violence, provoked a response reminiscent of last fall's Danish cartoons controversy. Then, as now, the perception of an insult to Islam resulted in violence. The pope has now apologized and hopes, perhaps in vain, that this will put the issue to rest.
Given the vulnerability of Christians inside the Muslim world, it can be argued that a papal apology may serve to save lives. But the reason why one may have been inevitable — the proclivity of extremist Muslims to use deadly force to register their opinions — demonstrates the West's dilemma. It is, after all, violent Islamists and religiously inspired terrorists who should apologize, not a man who sought to disparage hatred and violence.
The notion that religious support for the rise of Islamist terror is not a fit topic for public discussion is the real problem. The pope may have felt he had to apologize, but thinking people ought to be asking the same questions that he tentatively broached.