This week’s portion of the Torah begins with, “Then it shall be, when you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance, and you possess it and live in it” after which we are required twice to remember the fact that we have received a place which is good. First, “He has brought us to this place and has given us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ and then, “Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel, and the ground which You have given us, a land flowing with milk and honey, as You swore to our fathers.” Some may falsely think that this means that people will not have to do anything to make that happen, which is not the case. Between these two quotes we also find the words, “Now behold, I have brought the first of the produce of the ground which You, O Lord have given me.” and the demand, “you shall rejoice in all the good which the Lord your God has given you and your household.” The fruit of the land is a result of hard labor, sweat, toil and worry. Only when we work hard at it, there is the chance of also being blessed with success. Then it is also time to thank for all the good that was bestowed upon us.
We work hard in many aspects of our life, personal, family, congregation, movement and state. It is also good to be hoping that we are only bringing in “the first of the produce of the ground” and the future ahead of us is still brighter than that. That produce is not there because it was just given to us, it is there as a result of hard work, that of volunteers and professionals alike, who together may this land a good land. The double use of the land being a land of “milk and honey” is not to signify that it just happen but rather that it is a result of a lot of hardship, tough upward climbing, confronting difficulties, and yet not losing focus to the need to remember that this must also be shared with others, giving “it to the Levite and the alien, the orphan and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me”.
A fine example of a new fruit of the land is the fresh of the press book by our friend and teacher Professor Rabbi Dalia Marx. “About Time: Journeys in the Jewish-Israeli Calendar”. On her Facebook page she writes that the book “is my love letter to Israel’s society in particular and its Jewish population in general. An attempt to show that it is possible to be a free People and multifaceted displaying Judaism that broadens the tent rather than raising the walls… It is directed to educators, students, parents, to anyone whom Judaism is near and dear, and to those who wish to know it more intimately and thoroughly from a pluralistic point of view.” This book is yet another example of the produce of the land and to it being a “land of milk and honey”. I have already ordered a few copies for myself – look for it on Facebook and order your own copies, to bar and bat mitzvah kids, to have it by you as reading before you go to bed, or near a set table ready for a Shabbat or another festive dinner.
This Erev Shabbat we are also celebrating a new Torah scroll at the Darchei Noam Congregation of Ramat Hasharon. This is yet one additional stepping stone of the strengthening of Reform Judaism here in Israel despite of difficulties, the treacherous paths, and the facing of ever increasing challenges. Sometimes they may seem to be unsurmountable, and instill fear and despair – there is no place in us for either. This land in a “land of milk and honey” yet it requires our toil and sweat to make it a reality. Way to often we must resort to the judicial system in order to get what is lawfully ours. The Honorable Judge Menachem Finkelstein, presiding the case of the “Jonathan” Congregation represented by our skillful lawyers of the Israel Reform Action Center (IRAC), said simply, “… This case, respectfully, is not a difficult case to decide. It was embarrassing to read the transcripts of the debates by the municipality’s council, and the twists and turns of the representatives… I pity the conduct of such representatives, including that of the mayor, that tried not to fulfil their duty, and first and foremost that of fairness.” We work hard, we bring more Torahs into our synagogues, we are everywhere were Jews are seeking welcoming Judaism, pluralistic and thoughtful, it is then when the land becomes, slowly but surely, a “land of milk and honey”.
Reuven Marko, 31 August 2018, 21 Elul, 5778