This summer, as we read these same verses, Israel is again asking for our help; and while last summer’s battles took place on the borders of Gaza, this summer’s conflict is being waged in the halls of Congress.
DEVARIM, Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22
In the Torah portion of both last week and this week, we encounter the request of the Tribes of Reuven and Gad to settle on the east bank of the Jordan River rather than within the Land of Israel proper. Moses is aghast at their request and his response is as relevant today as it was thousands of years ago. “Your brothers are going out to war while you are settled here? Why do you dissuade the Israelites from crossing to the land that God has given them?” This commences a lengthy negotiation where the tribes agree to lead their brethren into battle and to return home only after the successful conquest of the Land.
Twelve months ago, when we read these words, Israel was at war with the terrorists and murderers of Hamas. We wanted to share the burden and help in the war effort in any way we could. Many of us contributed by traveling to Israel, donating to Israeli charities, or simply by offering our prayers to God for the protection of our brothers and sisters in the Israel Defense Forces. I remember speaking at the time, quoting the verses above, and suggesting that at the very least people should contact those they know in Israel to find out how they are doing, and to let them know that they’re in our thoughts and prayers.
This summer, as we read these same verses, Israel is again asking for our help; and while last summer’s battles took place on the borders of Gaza, this summer’s conflict is being waged in the halls of Congress. An agreement has been reached with Iran that has been deemed by many to endanger Israel’s security.
You can react to the deal by reading op-eds and learning about its gaping flaws. You can speak with your like-minded friends and continue to denounce this apparent downgrading of the U.S.-Israel alliance. But none of that will be as effective as assisting in the mission that many in the Jewish community have set forth for this summer.
Our efforts should be directed towards the democratic process of endeavoring to defeat implementation of this deal. Two-thirds of the Senate and two-thirds of the House of Representatives must oppose the agreement. Each of us can participate in the effort. We can contact our elected representatives and let them know how we feel — by letter, by phone and by email; preferably all three. We can do this often. More information on exactly what to write or say is available on many websites including AIPAC’s. It is a simple, easy and meaningful act that demonstrates to our elected officials that their constituents oppose this deal. Overturning the agreement may seem like a long shot, but it is possible.
More than 2,000 years ago, the Persian government passed laws with the intent of destroying the Jewish people. We were miraculously saved, and we celebrate that miracle every year on the festival of Purim. We often think that the miracle of Purim was that the plot of Haman was uncovered in time and the armies set on murdering Jews were defeated. However there was another layer to the miracle.
Rabbi Joseph Soloveichik adds that perhaps the greatest miracle of all was the fact that when a madman named Haman said he was going to destroy the Jewish people, he wasn’t dismissed or ignored. Rather, he was taken seriously by Mordechai and Esther, who took action and changed the course of history.
The American Jewish community has a checkered past when it comes to aiding our brethren in other lands. History has judged American Jewry’s reaction to the Holocaust as tepid and inadequate. On the other hand, American Jewry’s care and demonstrations for their brothers in the Soviet Union was instrumental in ultimately bringing down the Iron Curtain.
Today, as our brothers in Israel seek out our assistance let’s be sure we respond to the call.
Rabbi Yonah Gross is the rabbi of Congregation Beth Hamedrosh in Wynnewood and a member of the executive committee of the Rabbinical Council of America.