Chukat - weekly Torah portion

This is not a week of which the government of the State of Israel can be proud of, in fact its deeds have raised anger across the Jewish world. Emissaries from abroad are coming here to talk with premier Netanyahu and explain to him the gravity of the decisions to freeze the compromise reached regarding the Wailing Wall and the dire consequences of the proposed conversion law. All of this happened in the same week where the board of governors of the Jewish Agency were convening in Jerusalem – what a slap in the face. All understood what that means. It should be understood that even those who rejoiced with these decisions will have to comprehend that we are speaking of a government that cannot be trusted with its decisions. It may just change its preferences on a whim for mere expediency. How can we trust it that they will act differently in other cases? And even worse than that, can their decision process be trusted in other areas such as education, health or security?!

Even worse that these is what we hear from self-proclaimed leaders that distributed lies and words of defamation. Wednesday night I was listening to MK Dudi Amsalem speaking on channel 2. He argued that all that the Reform Movement stands for is Tikkun Olam and that is not a principle of Judaism. I guess that this active member of Knesset is not fully aware of the words of Aleinu which should be recited in prayers that explicitly talk about Tikkum Olam. Maybe he recites the prayer like so many others not giving a real thought or meaning to the words. We are proud for not being robots of Judaism but rather thinkers and implementers.

Marchers for Tikkun Olam. (Courtesy of RAC)

Tikkun Olam is the digging of a well, and Tikkun Olam is fixing that which has gone wrong, and Tikkun Olam is pointing to what is evil and removing it, and Tikkun Olam is leaving the world at a better shape than we have received it from our ancestors. Leaving the world in the way it is, the way it was spoiled by previous generations, and at times by us, is not a Jewish deed. The Jewish deed is going out and fixing things. And yes, there is tension about what needs Tikkun as it never is something simple. We read in this week’s portion of the Torah that Miriam, who’s well went with her and the Israelites passed away. Now, without a well there “was no water for the congregation, and they assembled themselves against Moses and Aaron. The people thus contended with Moses and spoke, saying, ‘If only we had perished when our brothers perished before the Lord! Why then have you brought the Lord’s assembly into this wilderness, for us and our beasts to die here? Why have you made us come up from Egypt, to bring us in to this wretched place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, nor is there water to drink.’”

This of course needs a fix and Moses and Aaron get the order to gather the people and “Take the rod; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water. You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the rock and let the congregation and their beasts drink.” But this is not what the leaders do, they do not talk to the rok, they talk to the people, “Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” With that “Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank.” There are times, even when it is absolutely clear that the leader will pay a price, were the leader must do the right thing even if the order received is different. Moses understood it was not a time for prayer, it is not a time to be nice, it is not a time to simply automatically obey orders. It was time to demonstrate the power of the rod.

We at the Reform Movement mostly prefer the prayer to the rock. To be soft spoken, desirous of compromise, accepting open heartedly the ways of the other, whatever way they prefer to pray. However, today is a different day, the threat before us is great and we are making it absolutely clear that we are not going to simply sit there obediently. At the end of the day a small and extreme faction of the Haredi Jews are dragging us all to a dangerous place where none of us want to be. There is today a wide coalition, in Israel and abroad, of orthodox, conservative, reform and secular Jews who all say Enough is Enough. We are here with a rod in our hand and we will strike the rock over and over again until fresh water starts flowing. Fresh water of life, fresh water of equality between streams, fresh water of equality between people, and fresh water of mutual respect. We do not despair but we are angry. We believe in the State of Israel and its ability and destiny to be the National Home for every Jew regardless of gender, political affiliation, religious practice, or any other Jewish identity that he or she may have. We struggle, we fight and we shall succeed.

Shabbat Shalom.

Reuven Marko, 7 Tamuz 5777, 30 June 2017

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