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Archive for January, 2009

Two Negotiations

Posted by rabbiart on January 31, 2009

When we read the early stories of Breshit we often link two of Avraham’s conversations and struggle why he argued on behalf of the (innocent) citizens of Sodom and was silent when he was called to sacrifice his son.  He negotiates with HaShem in the first, but in the second he seems to have nothing to say.  In our parshah this week we are in the middle of another, actually quite elongated, negotiation; this time between Moshe (or you might prefer HaShem) and Pharoah.  You may not have thought of the plagues as a negotiation, but that is exactly what it is.

Avraham’s negotiation is with words only, Moshe’s words are accompanied by an increasingly emphatic set of signs and wonders.  Avraham is ultimately unsuccessful, as there are not ten innocent citizens of Sodom.  Moshe (and of course HaShem) succeed vividly – and violently. But there are additional instructive differences between the two, and perhaps lessons that apply to some elongated and violent negotiations that are going on today.  (Yes, of course, the situation in which Israel finds ourselves today.)

Consider the opening of Avraham’s conversation with HaShem.

וַיהוָה, אָמָר:  הַמְכַסֶּה אֲנִי מֵאַבְרָהָם, אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי עֹשֶׂה.</p?

Shall I hide from Avraham what I am going to do?

Once he has heard what HaShem plans to do, Avraham appeals toHaShem. His argument is simply put in Breshit 18:25. Shall not the judge of all the do justice!?!.  Avraham can appeal to HaShem’s sense of justice, because HaShem not only understands what justice is – HaShem is the creator of justice. So Avraham is able to negotiate with the ultimate power in all universe without resorting to arguments of power or any demonstrations.

The conversation with Pharoah is a different story altogether.  Moshe is not invited to negotiate for Israel’s freedom, he must force Pharoah to consider it.  Appeals to justice will not be useful; this is a negotiation about power, and power is the chief bargaining tactic. This is what really underlies the plagues – Pharoah must be convinced to do what he must, not what is just. The plagues – or something to substitute for them – are necessary. We cannot imagine that Pharoah can be persuaded by appeals for justice… or mercy.

Like any power struggle, the means escalate as the conversation is prolonged.  What starts with magic tricks and creeping animals turns all too soon into destruction, darkness and ultimately death.

As the balance of power shifts away from Pharoah we see his attitude change along with it. Egyptian magicians are able to duplicate the early plagues, and Pharoah’s heart was hardened. But in the 2nd plague (frogs) we see Pharoah begin to soften, as he tells Moshe and Aaron to ask HaShem to remove the frogs. When the gnats and flies come, he tells Moshe to take the Israelites out into the wilderness to pray, but not to go too far.

After the hail Pharoah confesses to Moshe and Aharon that he has sinned, HaShem is righteous and he (Pharoah) and his people are wicked. After just the threat of locusts, Pharoah’s staff begins to lose faith in him. When the locusts have completed their destruction Pharoah tells Moshe and Aharon that he has sinned, and begs for forgiveness.
וַיֹּאמֶר, חָטָאתִי לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם–וְלָכֶם. יז וְעַתָּה, שָׂא נָא חַטָּאתִי אַךְ הַפַּעַם, וְהַעְתִּירוּ, לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם; וְיָסֵר, מֵעָלַי, רַק, אֶת-הַמָּוֶת הַזֶּה.
He said “I have sinned against the HaShem your G-d, and against you. Please pray to forgive my sin this one time – I beg you – to HaShem your G-d, that he may take away from me this death.

Finally after darkness, the harbinger of death, Pharoah simply tells Moshe gai mir kebenyeh fenyeh although its unlikely Pharoah spoke Yiddish. The negotiation has broken down, and only the tenth plague is left.

Did these negotiations succeed or did they fail? In Sodom and Gemorah ten innocent citizens could not be found, and perhaps the story of Lot, his guests and his daughters is meant to tell us that there was not even one innocent person in that town. So even had Avraham bargained all the way down to a single innocent, the cities would still have been destroyed.  But that examination can wait until after Simchas Torah when we start our cycle all over again.

In our parshah, Pharoah seems to be coming to a realization that his behavior is not only wrong, but that it’s wrongness must be recognized, and he must ask forgiveness. But at the eleventh hour the text tells us only that Moshe left Pharoah in a great anger.  Was this negotiation successful? It is difficult to judge. The Israelites do not reach an accomodation with Pharoah, but they do succeed in getting out of Egypt.  Is that perhaps the only meaningful test. On this one, you will have to be the judge.

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Arava Institute Happenings

Posted by rabbiart on January 30, 2009

Last night I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Michael Beyth, the current Board of Directors chairman of the Arava Institute at the home of Eric and Danielle Berzon. Eric and Danielle were one of the five couples who originally founded Kibbutz Ketura (where the Arava Institute is hosted) back in 1970.  Another of the founding couples was there as well. There were also two alums, Moriah Cohen and Maya Negev (2004-5). (I can put their names here because they were kind enough to write them down for me.)

By the way, I had asked Moriah and Maya to share their thoughts with me, and this just came in via email from Maya , “after living together at the Arava Institute, we, the alumni, know no borders. (this is what we always learn about the environment, and it is true also for people). During the war, Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian American and European Alumni are in touch by mail, phone and meetings, caring about each other and mourning together. Just like in other families, also in the Arava family when we don’t agree, we still listen and understand. Each in his or her own unique ways, we keep working for green peace in the Middle East”.

Hearing from Dr. Beyth was fascinating; he has been involved in many important projects in Israel, including the not-yet-started but long discussed canal from the Gulf of Eilat (Red Sea) to the Dead Sea.  It took me a few mentions to figure out what he was talking about, as everyone else sitting at the table (small group) was saying the “Red-Dead” project.  Dr. Beyth said the idea dates back at least until 1840. (that is not a typo)  Things sure move fast in that area of the world <rueful grin>.  Peace must be right around the corner (we should live so long!)

As readers probably know, the Dead Sea is rapidly shrinking because most of its historical flow (from the Jordan River) is diverted for agricultural and drinking water.  The Red-Dead (got it now!) project would include a massive desalination effort as well, so it’s a lot more than just filling the Dead Sea so tourists can float in the salt water. (which, by the way, is quite an experience; you really do float at the top of the water).

The ‘Friends of the Arava Institute” trustees are getting more involved in recruiting  bike riders for the ride. (this means you!). They are also looking at creative methods of fund-raising that might be (oh… maybe I’m not supposed to talk about those yet).  As you might guess, I volunteered to help any way I can. It looks like after 2009 the primary, perhaps only ride, will be November, so I won’t be getting a chance to challenge the Negev heat in a May ride.   (Of course if you’ve just won the lottery and want to sponsor me 100% for the ride in May, I’ll go… uh.. I’m not holding my breath for that one).

In my fantasy (well, one of them), we have a big team from the Bay Area; a bunch of people from Temple Beth Abraham, and at least one rider from every shul in the Bay Area.  Interested? call me, or comment herein and I’ll call you).

What does this have to do with Torah study? You might be wondering.  Tikkun Olam b’malchut Shaddai says it all.

Just think – you could have your picture – in an Israel Bike Ride jersey, right here.

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Bo Knows Gaza

Posted by rabbiart on January 28, 2009

If you are of a certain age you’ll remember a series of TV commercials featuring Bo Jackson playing a variety of sports with taglines of “Bo knows tennis”, “Bo knows basketball” and so on.  Of course these worked because he was sufficiently accomplished to play in both the NFL and “the show” as a professional.  The last commercial was a double play on words, as he attempted to play the guitar with a well known blues player and failed gloriously; hence the tagline Bo Knows Diddley, which he did (Bo Diddley was in the commercial with him) and didn’t (Bo Jackson -as opposed to Bo Diddley) couldn’t play a lick, i.e. he didn’t know diddlley about playing the guitar.

This has nothing to do with that.

The plagues – and therefore the power struggle with Pharoah – end in parshat Bo.  It’s a minority opinion and maybe a stretch for sure, but I see parallels between Israel’s servitude and imprisonment in Egypt, and modern Israel being “stuck in the brier ” in the so-called occupied territories and in the Gaza strip.  I believe, and polls consistently show, that most Israelis want to get out of both areas, but can’t figure out how it can be safely done.  It is yet another negotiation that jewish leaders find themselves in.

If you haven’t already done so, please read Two Negotiations before continuing here.

Like Moshe before us, we were not invited into the conversation in which we now find ourselves. Let’s face it, we were not invited into the very geography that we (Israel) currently hold. Not that we need or ever needed an invitation to have a Jewish country in one of the very few tiny-little-places in the middle east not floating on a seemingly inexhaustible ocean of oil.  Yet we find ourselves embroiled in a multi-party, multi-sided negotiation in which we simply wish to “go to our homeland” in peace and safety.It does not appear to be a negotiation conducted on principles of justice, or where appeals to fair play can be successful.  In other words, it would seem that the model of Avraham’s negotiation with HaShem has not yet proven useful.  I happily conced that viewing the entire situation from afar limits one’s understanding of what-is-really-going-on.  But most of the ebb and flow between Israel, Palestinians and the larger Arab world looks a lot more like an unabashed conversation about who is more powerful than it looks like anything else.

Does Bo know Gaza?  Maybe we should be taking our lead from the evolving attitude of Pharoah over the course of the plagues; the ultimate power negotiation.  Pharoah begins committed to Israel’s destruction, and he is not shy about it.  Sound familiar? It should. Hamas leaders (and their buddy I’manutjob as Jay Leno likes to call him) are hellbent on Israel’s destruction, even to the ruin of their own people’s interests. “Let my people go” does not move Pharoah and appeals to “live in peace” do not move Pharoah’s modern-day counterparts. Pharoah’s aiders-and-abetters convince him he as just as powerful as the Israelite G-d, just as Hamas proclaims themselves victors in the midst of being pummeled by a militarily superior force which could, if it chose, lay waste to the entire area and all its inhabitants.

In the Torah’s telling, Pharoah moves closer to freeing the Israelites, then pulls back from making an irrevocable decision.  Each time he does, Hashem pours on the power and moves closer to death and destruction.  Is Pharoah testing the limits of his power, or is he testing HaShem’s?  Since the plague of bombs and missiles stopped with two unilateral ceasefires, all parties to the conflict have been testing the limits of what they can do.  From the “Jewish side”, some forces in Gaza seem to be attempting to find out if launching rockets or setting off bombs will be met by a show of more force from Israel. Some argue for restraint, others argue for meeting force with more force.  If we directly apply the plagues as the model, we could only learn that force is the only response in a negotiation that is based on power.  Is that what should be done?  Yes, if HaShem himself is flying the airplanes and dropping the bombs, but perhaps that is not really the answer, as force against force has yet to bring acceptance and peace.

Bo Jackson did not really play basketball, tennis, or ice skate.  And he definitely did not play guitar.  And we should not play at being G-.? What if a different Torah teaching should be applied to this conflict, and not the model of the plagues?  The Torah tells us to remember the stranger, for we were strangers in Mitzrayim.  By the time of servitude, no Israelite allive had voluntarily chosen to live in Mitzrayim.  What if most of the residents of Gaza were likewise living in a place and under conditions not of their own choosing.  What if instead of bombs, the Israeli air force were dropping a different kind of ordinance? Pallets full of food, water, medicine, humanitarian supplies, clearly labeled as coming from, and provided by Israelis – and yes – Jews! What if Israel started a modern-day version of the Berlin airlift?  Could Gazans, and the world, continue to hold on to hatred?  Does not the Torah – at its most basic level – teach us to partner with HaShem and re-create the world in his image?

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and Shderot, and Ashkelon, and Gaza City, and Khan Yunis, and Rafa.

Shabbat Shalom

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MiSheberach List for Israeli Soldiers wounded in Gaza

Posted by rabbiart on January 27, 2009

A list of wounded IDF soldiers which was provided by Rabbi Yonah Metzger is available for download. It is two pages in length and arranged for printing double-sided. If your printer does double-sided printing, you can print it all at once, otherwise, you (like me) will have to print page one, reload the sheets and print page 2.

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Appearing to Forget – Forgetting to Remember

Posted by rabbiart on January 18, 2009

As the parshah opens, Moshe hears the voice of HaShem. In a startling statement (Shemot 6:5) HaShem says that because he has heard the crying out of b’nei Yisrael, HaShem remembers the covenant that HaShem had made.

וְגַם אֲנִי שָׁמַעְתִּי, אֶת-נַאֲקַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֲשֶׁר מִצְרַיִם, מַעֲבִדִים אֹתָם; וָאֶזְכֹּר, אֶת-בְּרִיתִי

Also I heard the crying out of bnei Yisrael whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I remembered my covenant

Is it possible that HaShem forgets HaShem’s promises? That would be a most disturbing thought! It appears that HaShem has forgotten about the Israelite nation while they (we) suffered in servitude.  He says to Moshe that only when he (read “she” if you like) heard the Israelites crying out did she (read “he” if you like) remeber the covenant.  After all the effort, the multiple promises, the conversations, how could HaShem forget the covenant?

What does it mean to remember?  What does it mean to forget?  We are the people of long memories, and we have received more than one commandment to remember. (warning, some author license taken in this list, perhaps not each of these commandments is  literally a “remember” commandment. Functionally? that’s another matter)  We are told

  • remember Shabbat
  • remember what Amalek did to us, and remember to forget their name
  • remember to tell the story of yetziat mitzrayim (escaping from Egypt)
  • the Erev Shabbat Kiddush is made zecher litziat mitzrayim (remembering that we escaped from Egypt)
There are more, but let’s content ourselves with noting that the Ramban says that many, many mitzvot are zecher litziat mitzrayim. Rabbi Akiva Tatz in his lecture “Miracles, Proofs and Human Knowledge” (at about the 40 minute mark) notes that there are six subjects to remember. We have mentioned Shabbat,  Amalek, Kiddush and yetziat mitzrayim; the others are standing at Sinai and the incident of the Golden Calf. He points out that remembering that we stood at Sinai is both a positive and negative commandment, for we are told both to remember and to not forget. (Here’s an invitation – see if you can find this reference in the Torah – and make a comment to this post).

We are a people of long memories, could our creator be forgetful? Let’s go to the Rashi.  Commenting on our verse above, he says – commenting on “Also I heard” – “Just as I established and set up the covenant, it is incumbent upon Me to fulfill it. Therefore, I heard the complaints of the bnei Yisrael, who are moaning.  Going further, and reacting to the mention of the Egyptians in the verse, Rashi says – commenting on “I remembered my covenant” – “I remembered that covenant [which I made with Abraham], for in the Covenant between the Pieces, I said to him ‘And also the nation that they will serve will I judge”.  (Here’s another invitation – see if you can identify the “text hook” which enables Rashi to relate the Breshit verse to our verse here – and make a comment to this post).

It seems safe to say “there’s a whole lot of remembering going on” right here.  Which leads to thought, which should lead to action.  Which does exactly that. In verse six a new promise is given, not to the ancestors but to us (remember, and don’t forget, that we stood at Sinai after we escaped from Egypt).  HaShem makes this new promise; HaShem will take us out of Egypt and redeem us, and will be a God to us, and we will know this out of our own experience. (Last few words added in).  And, coming full circle to our ancestors and to our present day, HaShem will bring us to the land which was promised to our ancestors.

Apparently, at least according to this text, we can go home again.
Shabbat Shalom

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Is this the beginning of anti-semitism?

Posted by rabbiart on January 16, 2009

The word itself was invented relatively recently, but the behavior has been with us for way too long.  Iin rabbinical school I took a course by Professor Michael Meyer on anti-semitism.  The first passage we reviewed was the opening chapter of Parshat Shemot.  He posed the question to us – is Shemot Chapter One the first recorded instance of anti-semitism? After un-remembering Yosef, the new Pharoah proclaims

הִנֵּה, עַם בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל–רַב וְעָצוּם, מִמֶּנּוּ. י הָבָה נִתְחַכְּמָה, לוֹ: פֶּן-יִרְבֶּה, וְהָיָה כִּי-תִקְרֶאנָה מִלְחָמָה וְנוֹסַף גַּם-הוּא עַל-שֹׂנְאֵינוּ, וְנִלְחַם-בָּנוּ, וְעָלָה מִן-הָאָרֶץ.

He said to his people. Look, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. We must deal cleverly with them, or else they will become even more numerous, and if we get into a war, they will join with our enemies and fight against us, and leave our land.

The text gives us no reason for Pharoah to fear the Israelites. According to the record we have in the Torah, Israel – in the person of Yosef – has done a great service to the ruling class; saving the people from famine and increasing the power of Pharoah. Of course the new Pharoah may have unseated the old Pharoah, and not want to recognize Yosef’s contributions. But his attitude toward the Israelite is classic double-bind. The are numerous, they might get more numerous, so they are a threat to Mitzrayim. But if they become sufficiently powerful and numerous, they miight ally themselves with an enemy, and leave us. The inevitable reaction of the reader (if the reader is me, of course) is to think – but then the Israelites would no longer be a threat to you, so what’s your problem.

Classic anti-semitism (even before the term existed) has been described as having four stages:

  1. You’re Jews, you’re not like us.
  2. You can’t live among us as Jews.
  3. You can’t live among us.
  4. You can’t live.

In our text, Pharoah leaps immediately to  from stage 1 to stage 4 when he order the midwives to kill the Israelite sons.  The midwives (no dummies they) feed into Pharoah’s viewpoint when they defend their failure to kill babies by saying that the Israelite women are “different”; they give birth much faster.

A signficant part of the  history of Jewish migration – and the Jewish people ourselves – seems to be described and foreshadowed by the latter part of Breshit and the early part of Shemot. In short

  • Enter the land under the auspices of a protector.
  • Produce social and economic benefit to the host country.
  • Wear out our welcome – or have it worn out for us – and get thrown out.

Not until the twentieth century – and now into the twenty-first – do we seem to be in a battle for our very survival.  In the ancient middle east – in the depths of Mitzrayim – the known world (the part Israel knew – which is to say Egypt) was against our very existence.  Pharoah sought to destroy us.  Now in the contemporaneous middle east, the known world (the part surrounding Israel) seems to be seeking our very destruction; we can read  and hear their edicts in any medium we choose.

We’ve all heard a variation of the “shortest holiday story”; they tried to kill us, we survived and flourished, let’s eat.

As it has been, so it will be in the future.  Enjoy your Shabbat meals.

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Call me by my name

Posted by rabbiart on January 14, 2009

Here’s the correct URL for Appearing to Forget, Forgetting to Remember

Who are we?  What is our name?  How do we identify ourselves? The parshah begins by reciting the names of those who wend down to Mitzrayim. Why?  We – the reader – know the names of Yakov’s family, especially the most famous member of them all – Yosef.  Considering the multi-part drama of his reunion with the family, it seems likely that the contemporary ruling class would have known the members of this family as well.  We can easily imagine the dinner table conversations about the strange relatives of Pharoah’s number one right-hand man. Yet a few short verses and we encounter a statement that resonates through history to this very day.

וַיָּקָם מֶלֶךְ-חָדָשׁ, עַל-מִצְרָיִם, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יָדַע, אֶת-יוֹסֵף

There arose a new Pharoah over Mitzrayim, who knew not Yosef

Is it credible that a new Pharoah would not have known of Yosef, the man who single-handedly saved Mitzrayim from famine?  Or is it more likely that this new Pharoah did not want to credit Yosef; did not want to recognize Yosef’s achievements. The denial of Yosef is like a warning shot across the bow; as much more non-naming is soon to be recounted.

Pharoah quickly pronounces that the Israelites are “other”, not part of Mitzrayim, and will ally themselves with Pharoah’s enemies at the first opportunity.  When the midwives demur  from killing Israelite sons, they offer Pharoah a justification easy for Pharoah to accept. “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they give birth too fast.”

Yosef’s name has been expunged from Egypt’s memory of the past. Now – in chapter two – the future will be born – anonymously.  A man and woman from the house of Levi have a son. He is hidden, then floated upon the water, watched by his sister.  The Torah gives us no names for these people.  it takes Pharoah’s daughter, herself un-named in the story, to give the child a name – Moshe.

How does Moshe know who he is?  The Torah gives us no answer, only a story of Moshe going out to seek – and recognize – his brothers. He intervenes on behalf of one brother, then is outed when he tries to intervene between two more on the next day.  Still no one is named, and he flees to Midian, where again he tries to do the right thing.  finally, (chapter two, verse twenty one) he is married to Zipporah, and (we can reasonably infer) known by name within his Midianite family.

Ultimately, Moshe has his famous meeting at the burning bush.  When he asks the voice for a name he is told simply  אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה     which can be translated as either “I am that I am” or “I will be what I will be”. This is a name that is both frightening and promising at the same time. Why is it, in a parshah called “names”, no one seems to have one? Or, at least, why is it so difficult to find out what the people in our story are called.

Steve Goodman, the late folksinger, popularized a song that included the lyric “you don’t have to call me darling, darling, but you never even call me by my name.” As a young parent, I wanted my children to call me by my first name, rather than by Dad, Daddy or any of the usual appellations.  It didn’t last, and its probably not without significance that it didn’t.  To our children, our identity is as a parent, so a parental “name” is the name that best expresses the relationship between us.

Names are powerful. Names can determine behavior.  As we labor through the birth pangs of our Israelite family each week in the Torah, let us understand and recognize the power of names.   If Pharoah knew Yosef, he couldn’t fear him and be suspicious of his family. Pharoah decided he didn’t know our name, so he could do really nasty things to us.   As we labor through the ongoing birth pains of our modern Israelite nation, let us also remember the power of names, both within our family, and outside our family.   Rockets , bombs and bullets may be flying toward each other, but more than that, what we call each other tells us how we feel about each other.  We need to use names that lead us toward peace, and away from conflict.

Shabbat Shalom

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Gaza on my mind

Posted by rabbiart on January 6, 2009

Like a lot of us the past couple of weeks, the conflict in Gaza is on my very conflicted mind. Doing drash by literary analysis of this week’s parshah with its strange and wonderful Grandfather Yakov blessing seems to be off track from what studying the Torah and our tradition is all about. I’m struggling with how I feel about the conflict that is raging, and whether there is anything that I personally can or can’t do about it, and how not to add to the angry and hateful feelings of which there are already too much in the world.

Not too long ago, November 13 to be exact, I rode my bicycle along the border between Israel and the Gaza strip. Our breakfast stop was at the Nir Am reservoir overlooking the border. (You can see it on Google Maps by putting in this string – nir am reservoir, israel) So although I don’t live in Sderot, or Ashkelon, or any of the Israeli cities that have been on the receiving end of Hamas rockets, I have a vivid picture in my mind of overlooking the strip and seeing Gaza City in the not too far distance.(see picture below)

In fact, as we were riding along the border on our way to breakfast I saw a “weather balloon” in the sky ahead of us. I asked Gil – our lead rider in that moment – if it was a weather balloon. He replied, “yes, its a whether balloon, it tells us whether or not there are rockets coming from Gaza.”

Does the tradition have anything to say about the conflict in Gaza? Of course it does; it has much to say. The problem is in figuring out which part of it to apply. We have the two-fold teaching of the basic justification for war; wars of self-defense and wars that are optional. This is part of the conflict about the conflict; is it a war of self-defense? After all, one could argue, few Israelis have been harmed, much less killed, by the rockets coming from Gaza. But, one can also convincingly advocate, that is simply because the weapons are primitive and the targeting poor. Into which category does the current conflict fall? It may depend on which lens we use as we peer through the looking-glass.

We have the concept of the rodef (one who pursues with the intent to murder) about which the Babylonian Talmud says that we should rise up and kill that person first. This teaching is itself based on Vayikra 19:16 which says (in translation) “you shall not stand idly by the blood of your fellow-man”, or in the original
לֹא תַעֲמֹד עַל-דַּם רֵעֶךָ. Read that verse, and its easy to reach the conclusion that it applies to Hamas in Gaza and all who support them. After all, don’t they proudly proclaim out loud almost every day that their intent is to destroy the state of Israel. But perhaps, applying this verse is made difficult by the next verse, which begins
לֹא-תִשְׂנָא אֶת-אָחִיךָ, בִּלְבָבֶךָ
You shall not hate your brother in your heart.

I’ve been corresponding this week with Mousa Diabat, who I met on the Israel ride. (I’m working with Rabbi Bloom to bring him to Temple Beth Abraham next year to speak to us). Mousa is Israeli, Palestinian, and I’m pretty sure, Moslem. (And you, reader, might think you’re conflicted. Hah!) He’s a graduate of the Arava Institute program and was holding a position in the Israeli government until he left to come to Oregon State to pursue a Ph.D. He wrote me of his experience walking around the campus wearing a t-shirt with Hebrew, Arabic and English on it. In part he said.

people here are asking me waiting for one-sided answers. But they do not get it….
My side of the story is more about what should we together in order to prevent similar events in the future. Still hoping…

For my part, I’m going to attempt to hold on to one thought, and to safeguard myself against one emotion. The thought is – it is not a simple situation, and it cannot be the case that one side is completely right and the other side is completely wrong. (Although this is far, far, far from thinking both sides are equally culpable and in a situation of moral equivalency). The emotion is hatred. There’s too much of it in the world, and I don’t want to be part of that. Beyond that, I think I’ll go stand emotionally with Mousa …. Still hoping.

That’s Art with some fellow bike-riders eating breakfast by the Nir Am reservoir. You can see Gaza behind the reservoir. It is a lot closer than it looks in this picture.

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