There is no better time for us to read from this week’s portion of the Torah the words “You shall charge the sons of Israel, that they bring you clear oil of beaten olives for the light, to make a lamp, forever. In the tent of meeting, outside the veil which is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall keep it in order from evening to morning before the Lord; it shall be a perpetual statute throughout their generations for the sons of Israel.” Every night, when evening falls, a candle must be lit to shy away the darkness of the night and it must remain lit until the morning. It must ne done always, forever, as when darkness covers the earth it is required to have a light to expel at least some of the darkness away.
This week the Knesset of Israel passed in a first reading two laws. One of them deals with organizations that do not present the State of Israel in a way that is of liking to the government. The other deliberately deals with the use of amplification systems in mosques when calling believers to pray. There are other attempts to scare the military attorney’s office, or the Supreme Court, or the state comptroller. Every time someone in the political system has a problem with another branch they speak fowl of them and tears another piece off of the garment that holds everything together; they blow out one more candle and increase the darkness around us. It is sad to see that these days this kind of conduct is spreading throughout the western world using brutal and uncontrolled language that also leads to deeds.
The URJ Leadership Delegation with President Reuven Rivlin
This week the URJ is having its 2017 Mission to Israel of its leaders, a mission led by chair Daryl Messinger and URJ president Rabbi Rick Jacobs. We have joined them for the debates and discussions, and among others visited with them the President of Israel, Reuven (Rubi) Rivlin. Talking about democracy the President emphasized its importance not of being the rule of the majority but its ability to protect the minority’s rights. Too many forget that when they are in a position of power, prefer what seems to be an easy solution, simply using the power of the majority to crush the rights of minorities. The President of the State of Israel stressed upon how important it is to bridge over differences, having a dialog even when there is disagreement, and remembering that we are after all a big family. He further said that he cannot imagine a Jewish State which is not democratic, “it is unthinkable,” he said.
I have no doubt that the State of Israel has the right and the obligation to defend its interests, but those are not always in full overlap with the interests of one or another political party. The State of Israel as a democratic and Jewish State has not only rights but also significant obligations. If we are talking about the Muezzin Law, it would have been by far more beneficial to have an effective and constructive dialog in order to reduce noise when it disturbs some neighbors, and use the current law, that has become a disregarded law, in an equal way, for all noise hazards. And when talking about the funding restrictions it seems just to show how weak the argument of the government really is.
The government and the coalition majority could have chosen another way. They could have chosen to use a beacon of light to brush away the darkness. It was possible to illuminate with facts so that an opponent will become a supporter, a foe to a friend. It is the leader’s responsibility to carry to torch ahead of the camp, and there is no known way to use darkness to illuminate the way. We will be celebrating Purim this week and will read from the scroll of Esther about her concern to go to the king to whom she was not invited for many days. Her uncle Mordecai responds, “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” We cannot stand still when we see others but also ourselves being the victims of incitement, when cemeteries and places of gathering of the Jewish community in the USA are threatened or desecrated, or when the delicate fabric of those living together here in Israel, the Jewish majority and the minorities of the land, is abused for a short-term political gain. If we do not stand firm, side-by-side with them, they will have relief and deliverance from some other source, but we will perish. Therefore, for their sake and ours, we shall “make a lamp, … from evening to morning before the Lord;” an”d it shall be a perpetual ….”
Shabbat Shalom and a Happy Purim.
Reuven Marko, 10 March 2017, 13 Adar, 5777