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עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

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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