“The Lord spoke again to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord’s appointed times which you shall proclaim as holy convocations—My appointed times are these” These times are listed in this week’s portion of the Torah. It includes the Sabbath, “For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation. You shall not do any work;” The Passover commences “ In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month [a]at twilight is the Lord’s Passover. 6 Then on the fifteenth day of the same month there is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread”; The Festival of Weeks requires some counting “from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete sabbaths. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath; The occasion that we now celebrate as New Year, Rosh HaShana occurs on “the seventh month on the first of the month you shall have a rest, a reminder by blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall not do any laborious work”; the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, scheduled for “exactly the tenth day of this seventh month… it shall be a holy convocation for you, and you shall humble your souls”; and finally, “On the fifteenth of this seventh month is the Feast of Booths for seven days to the Lord. On the first day is a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work of any kind.”
Marie Nachmias “… Jews, Arabs, Christians and Druses we shall all be together like one hand"
Over time more appointed times were added to the Jewish calendar. These include Independence Day, Simchat Torah, even though it is mentioned as the eighth day of Succoth but not in the particular context, and of course Hanukkah. From Wednesday evening and throughout Thursday we celebrated Israel’s seventy first Independence Day. A sharp change of mood characterizes the transition from Memorial Day, were we mourn the loss of over twenty three thousand men and women who lost their lives in the events leading to the establishment of the State and thereafter, to the opening celebrations of Independence Day. Almost every one of us has at least a memory of some such person who lost their life that way. Currently it remains an ever growing list, citizens and visitors, soldiers and officers who lost their lives defending our right to become again People of the Land.
I can also imagine that many of us watched, with more or less teats in one’s eyes, the opening ceremony of Independence Day on Mount Herzl. It is always a heartwarming ceremony, not necessarily because of politicians who try to grab a frame more often than not. Jeff Finklstein, the president of the Pittsburgh Jewish Federation who kindled the torch in honor of Diaspora Jewry who mentioned the hope and desire for equality of rights to all Jewish streams in the State of Israel. The applause were clear and loud and hopefully touched also the heart of Israel’s prime minister who sat among the crown of invitees. The tenth of twelve torches was lit by the ninety three years old Marie Nachmias for her opening her heart and home to fifty two children, abandoned in hospitals because of various disabilities, becoming a foster mother to them. Speaking from her heart she also said, “… Jews, Arabs, Christians and Druses we shall all be together like one hand – God created us all and he shall bestow upon us Peace…” and the large crowd, surely with many different and possibly opposing views, stood on their feet cheering her loudly.
This principle of equality is such a Jewish principle that it is odd that an Israeli government would ever insist not to adhere it. At the end of this week’s portion of the Torah a case of a person who curses God, according to the commentary. This is forbidden and he is brought to Moses and is put “in custody so that the command of the Lord might be made clear to them. Nobody takes the law into their own hands but rather the situation has to be checked. The punishment in such a case is harsh, a death penalty but the discussion concludes with “The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.” The law is the same and nobody may be judged differently under the law. However, as this is not enough, we continue to read the following: “If a man takes the life of any human being, he shall surely be put to death. The one who takes the life of an animal shall make it good, life for life. If a man injures his neighbor, just as he has done, so it shall be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; just as he has injured a man, so it shall be inflicted on him. Thus the one who kills an animal shall make it good, but the one who kills a man shall be put to death. There shall be one standard for you; it shall be for the stranger as well as the native, for I am the Lord your God.”
Its regretful to see that sometimes our political establishments loses its checks and balances which they should have implemented by learning our long history as a People. Especially those who speak so highly of Judaic values but their hands are full of violent robbing. It is especially important that when we celebrate our regained political independence that the requirement “There shall be one standard for you; it shall be for the stranger as well as the native” must be reiterated and followed. This is what Mr. Finkelstein prayed for, this is what Mrs. Nachmias talked about, at her seniority did not forget the basics. We can just hope that we all listen to what was said, implement it at home and make sure that it becomes the standard and the norm in our everyday life, in both spirit and deed, thus making possible a true independence.
Reuven Marko, 10 May 2019, 6 Iyar, 5779