Ian Silverman, Rabbi

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Reflections on the beginning of Exodus and the UN Resolution 2334: Saving the world while saving one’s own

We will explore the world of push-and-pull in Moses’ inner psyche and in so doing, maybe see a reflection of ourselves.

Moses bursts onto the scene an internationalist, working on behalf of those who are oppressed. Brought up as an Egyptian royal, Moses looks upon slavery in the abstract and sees an oppressed people, but it takes a while before he actually internalizes that those who are abused are his own people and is bothered enough to spring into action. It says in Vayigdal Moshe, “…and Moses matured and then went out unto HIS people and saw their suffering.” The Midrash tells us that Moses sees an Egyptian raid a man’s home at night and takes the man and his wife out into the dark. The Egyptian approaches the wife, who cannot see in the dark, pretending to be her husband. Thereafter, with the Egyptian knowing that the man is onto him, this taskmaster torments the slave daily. Moses “looked here and there…he saw the man’s debasement in his own home and he saw his debasement during the day in the field, and he struck out at the Egyptian and in the process killed him…” But Moses still, at this point, has issues with being a savior only of his own people.

A bounty is put on Moses’ head and he flees to Midian. Seeing that working to help your own is dangerous and yet not able to refrain from helping others, he immediately goes to work aiding the daughters of Jethro, who are attempting to draw water for the flock they are tending, but are being tormented by local bullies. Moses defends them and draws their water. Jethro, thinking Moses an Egyptian, rewards Moses by giving him Tzippora to wed, and Moses fathers two children and stays in Midian as a shepherd. Moses is contented for forty years, fully one third of his life, ignoring his own people’s suffering while helping a different people and helpless animals. It only when happening upon God in the form of a strangely and perennially burning bush, that he is reminded of the oppression of the Hebrews in Egypt. We know of such people that will move mountains to help the oppressed of the world and poor animals suffering, but when it comes to their own people’s plight, they poo-poo it. And aren’t some of these people us? Moses, even after a forty-year hiatus, still drags his feet to the point where God almost kills him on the way back to Egypt!

Moses seems to need to go through that journey of re-sensitizing himself to his brothers’ suffering–vayetze el Echav vayaar sivlotam–to really see the suffering of his brothers, his sisters, and his own family in the main. Much like Abraham before him, he flirts with universalism and worries a lot about people suffering like those in Midian and in Sodom and Gemorrah. Abraham, in his day, overlooked the violence and the people’s incitement–the fact that they were almost all wicked– and struggled to have God save them too. That is a fine and deeply needed sensibility, to an extent. But in Abraham’s case, his focus became so much the inclusion of the wicked that he lost sight of the advocacy of his own. He seemed mute when God told him “Hey Abe, take Ishmael and his mother into the desert with a canteen of water…” He seemed frozen when God demanded, “Nu, slaughter your own son Isaac…” In other words, he loses his bearing and his right to self- preservation. So too, Moses at this point pawns off the job of rescuing those pesky “Israelites,” saying, “God, please I am slow of speech…” Send someone else, please–let me off the hook.

And of course we know this tension. It is difficult not to agree with those who claim we should care about the rights and suffering of so many groups. We should advocate equally for the oppressed groups of minorities and Muslims, of queer people and of illegals. We should be color blind and indiscriminate in embracing the liberation movements of all peoples. Consistency must be the order of the day. Like Moses and Abraham, the needs of those of Sodom and Gemorah and the needs of the Midianites and the needs of all oppressed should occupy our time equally.

 

But of course, in the long run, choices of time, energy and of priority are upon us, just as they are for Moses and Abraham. What do you or I say when Black Lives Matter asks that there be colorblind law enforcement and minority hiring and a review of legal practices? Oh, and by the way, Israel is a racist and genocidal state systematically oppressing the Palestinian masses! What do you or I say when Palestinians point to this or that search for terror cells or road blocks by the Israeli military in the wake of terrorist incursions or car “drive overs” and say, “See Israel is an apartheid Nazi police state?” What do you or I say when people point to settlers in Judea and Samaria and say, “See, the Israelis are illegally settling Palestinian Territory (when this territory was referred to on most all maps before 1948 as Judaea and Samaria, the ancient homeland of the Israelites of the north.)” And what do you or I say when the world points to the Western Wall Plaza and claims that at the Wall, Jews are occupying Palestine and that the Kotel is really Palestinian, and that Israel is erasing the “religious legacy” of Islam on the Temple Mount, which is, after all, the legitimate site of the Haram Al Sharif? How do we feel when the whole world points to Israel at the UN Paris conference and claims that Israel is on the way to becoming an illegal occupier of the real indigenous inhabitants? In other words, the Jews of Israel are a “Johnny come lately” thief of another peoples’ land?

The tension, of course, is great because we Jews know from history what oppression is. We know what Nazism, Fascism and genocide are. We have seen it up close and personal. And it devastates us to visit it again, even if it’s used completely fallaciously. Our enemies smear us with these false charges because they know how we are affected. They know the universalistic tendency in our DNA, going back to Abraham and to Moses! They know, in other words, how much we so want compromise, so want peace, so want to make nice, and so want to help the oppressed. That is our nature. Wayaar besivlotam–we see and empathize with suffering of others and cannot abide it.

Here is what I say when I waver. The world looks at us Jews and expects us to care about the oppressed, and yet they have a hard time understanding how Israel can occupy a population for fifty years. They are tired of Israel’s circumspection and tired of Israel’s’ foot dragging and worrying about their own border security. And there are even some in the Jewish community that look at it this way. But “oilem is Goilim”– the world is ignorant. Here is what they don’t know or don’t want to know. They don’t know that like most Jews, you and I stem from grandparents and great grandparents that lived in a world without a Jewish state. And the world doesn’t know that our grandparents left towns in the Ukraine (I knew my grandparents but they didn’t speak of their struggles with me because I was too young and they spoke better in Yiddish than English) because of pogroms by hateful and anti-Semitic Ukrainians Cossacks and Poles. Those that didn’t leave–their cousins, aunts, great uncles, second cousins and elders were made to dig their own graves and were shot in the head by Nazis taking target practice. In towns like Bilce and Kremenitz and Kovel and Ludmir and Dzienk near Kiev, 2.8 million Jews lost their lives by bullet before the first gas chamber and extermination camp was built. The Nazis simply went from town to town, and the next day the Ukrainians were auctioning off their furniture and their clothing. And what the world doesn’t know or doesn’t choose to know is that Israeli Jews know this reality, and they know a Sephardic reality of dispossession and murder when Israel was becoming a state. The world doesn’t know that 800,000 Mediterranean, North African, Syrian and Iraqi Jews, who lived in Arab lands 1000 years before the emergence of Islam, were made homeless. All this because there was no State for the Jewish People where their agenda was the agenda. And the world chooses to forget that Israel tried territorial compromise and the Palestinians rejected it–not once, not twice, not thrice, but four times, in ‘37 in ‘48 in 2000 and in 2008–because the Palestinians still have not given up on the idea that they will have a majority both in Israel and Palestine. And they don’t know that unilateral withdrawal didn’t work for the State of Israel when it left Gaza in 2005 and said, “Here, it’s yours. Be a peaceful neighbor,” and instead, the Palestinians build tunnels underground and rocket launchers above ground and continually attacked the southern border of Israel.

All these things the world forgets, and yet, some of us channel our inner Moshe and our inner Abraham impulse to try to save the whole world simultaneously. Therefore, we must concentrate on saving our own, first and foremost, or there will be no Jewish State or Jewish people to try to help the rest of the world. Like John Kerry and President Obama, I also want a two state solution. I think too, that perhaps it is time to limit settlement expansion, but only in exchange for Palestinian concessions like accepting the existence of the Jewish state and a definitive crackdown on preachers and textbooks that incite and spread bald anti-Semitism. Palestinian statehood cannot come about willy-nilly by sprinkling pixie dust in Paris. May the words “the Jews have a right to their own sovereignty in the State of Israel” be heard one day from the mouths of our Palestinian adversary. When this happens, two peoples can and will live side by side, and I have no doubt that the State of Israel will be the first in line to help guarantee the success of a State of Palestine, and to that, let us say, Amen.

 

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Israel Items of Interest

Film recommendation: Mekonen, the story of an Ethiopian Jew who makes peace with an emotional past and embraces his future in Israel, becoming a decorated officer in the IDF while remaining true to his African roots and culture.

Did you know that the first victim of 9-11 was an Israeli Special Forces Veteran who rushed the cockpit of American Airlines Flight 11 to stop the hijackers, but was murdered in his attempt to stop these al-Queda terrorists. Watch a quick video, HERE. 

Read about a small guitar workshop in Jaffa, creating the finest instruments, HERE.

A PhD student at Hebrew University has won an award for developing a test to detect Parkinson's Disease. Read about it HERE.

Three years after publishing an anti-Israel letter in the medical journal, The Lancet, the editor admits he has deep regrets and has dedicated the latest issue to highlighting health care in Israel. Read about it HERE.

Read an article by Chris Coons and Marco Rubio from the Wall Street Journal, "Every Senator Agrees the UN Must Change," HERE.

Israel's medical clowns- they cheer up sick kids, reduce anxiety, decrease pain, and alleviate depression. They are Jews, Christian Arabs, and others. Watch a YouTube video about them HERE.

Learn about the connection of Jews with Israel, the decades-long quest of Israel for peace with it's neighbors, the failure of Palestinian leadership to turn conflict into coexistence, and the contrast between the fate of Palestinian and Jewish refugees from the Arab-Israel conflict, HERE. 

Women of the IDF video

 

Rabbi Silverman's Suggested Sites to See

An ad campaign proposed by Palestinians for London's underground subway stations depicting the peaceful Arab population before and bereavement after the establishment of Israel in 1948 has been rejected by the city of London. Read about it HERE.

According to experts, Israel and Saudi Arabia are praising Trump's new policy towards Iran, a sign that their shared concern is "nudging" Israel and much of the Arab world closer together. Read about it HERE.

November 2nd commemorates the history of the Balfour Declaration, when Lord Balfour announced the support for the establishment of a "national home for the Jewish people in what was then the Ottoman region of Palestine. Read the history HERE.

According to an ex-AP reporter, Journalists covering Israel have created a reality that doesn't match what's really happening. Read the explanation that came out of the Christian Media Summit HERE.

Read excerpts from the US Congressional Record of 1922, demonstrating the powerful sense of members of Congress for reestablising a Jewish national home in Palestine, HERE.

Read the Las Vegas shooting statement from the Rabbinical Assembly, HERE.

The American Jewish Historical Society, founded to study and preserve Jewish history, is now made up of anti-Israel activists due to its partnership with the JVP, Jewish Voice for Peace, and anti-Israel BDS hate group that defends anti-Semitism. Read about it HERE.
UCLA Professor David Myers, appointed CEO of the center this past summer says he loves Israel and denies that he is for the BDS movement. Read his defense HERE.

 

End the practice by the Palestinian Authority to provide cash to terrorists for injuring and killing Israelis and foreigners by supporting the Taylor Force Act, named after a US serviceman murdered in Tel Aviv, whose assasin's family benefits from PA terror payments. Urge Congress to end these payments HERE.

Watch a video showcasing the StandWithUs Center in Jerusalem HERE.

Although Canadian hate speech laws are more restrictive than those of the US, the courts in Canada did not cite an imam for his prayers to "destroy the accursed Jews." This comes despite Jewish communal support of Muslims after six worshippers were killed in a mosque. Read about it HERE.

Chelsea soccer star Alvaro Morata is tellling fans to stop chanting a song in his honor that contains anti-Semitic language- a principled stand that sets the right tone for all sport, HERE. 

Jews exiled from Iraq in the 1950s were forced to leave behind treasured items that were recovered by US troops in 2003 in a flooded Iraqi basement. The State Department is planning to return them to Iraq, but Senator Chuck Schumer is among a group of US lawmakers that have joined Jewish groups in lobbying to keep the archive in a location accessible to Iraqi Jews and their descendants- none of whom now live in Iraq. Read about it HERE.

A disturbing assessment of the present state of feminism by one of its pioneers, Phyllis Chesler, HERE.

The Rabbinical Assembly has issued a statement on the Las Vegas incident– HERE , as well as a statement on sensible gun control – HERE

Israel's Yad Vashem was redesigned and reconstructed in 1993, but the collusion between the the Germans and Arabs in their hatred of the Jews has been significantly downplayed from its emphasis in the former museum. Read about it HERE.

Jewish college kids confront aggressive and professional anti-Semitic efforts to transform campuses into Israel-hostile environments. Most Jewish students manage to remain unaffected by moving to the "sidelines" of the debate and "proceeding with life as students normally would." But this is a win for the anti-Israel campaign. Read why HERE.

Monday, September 25th, was "Hate Israel Day" for the UN Human Rights Council, a regular agenda item that targets the Jewish state. Surprisingly, an ex-Hamas Palestinian took the floor and challenged the Palestinian Authority, citing Israel as a false and convenient scapegoat for the suffering of the Palestinian people and selfish political interests of the PA. Read Mosab Hassan Yousef's words HERE. 

Learn how you can help, where you can drop off needed supplies, or make a donation toward the Relief and Recovery Effort for Puerto Rico, click HERE.

Watch an interview of Israel's former Ambassador to the UN, Ron Posor with Alan Dershowitz discussing certain UN agencies. The interview by Israeli television is laced with optimism at the appointment of former PM of Portugal Gutierrez as Secretary General, HERE.

Before three Israeli's could be buried following a Palestinian terrorist attack on September 26, Abbas' Fatah movement celebrated the killings on Facebook, calling the killer a martyr and promising to reward the family in shekels. Read about it HERE.
If you want the world to take real action to stop Palestinian terror join your voice to the 46,000 people who have signed The Israel Project petition HERE.

Support the Isreael Anti-Boycott Act, which protects US companies targeted by international boycotts against Israel and punishes those who comply with them. Read all about it HERE.

The U.S. State Department annual report applauds the Palestinian Authority for curbing violence, recognizing Israel, and pursuing an independent Palestinian state through peaceful means. Read about this fantasy HERE.

According to a Palestinian psychologist, women hijacking planes and murdering Israeli civilians are "wonderful acts of heroism." Unfortunately, these are the societal values of the Palestinian adversary. Learn about it HERE.

A pro-Palestinian Jewish group is urging young Jews to shun Birthright because, while Birthright offers free trips to Israel, Palestinian refugees are barred from returning to their homes. Read about it HERE.

Norway received a refund for a women's center they had funded, after learning that the woman it had been named for had led a terrorist attack in 1978. Does this signal a new beginning in Europe's attitude toward the Palestinian Authority? Find out HERE.

A charity organization called "Islamic Relief" received funding and notariety across the globe, but they have been tied to extreme violent anti-Semitism. Read about it HERE.

Find out what you can send to Houston to aid area Conservative shuls HERE.

Jewish critics accuse the Holocaust Museum of bystanderism for excusing the Obama administration in its response to war crimes committed by Bashar al-Assad in Syria and not taking action to prevent them. Read about it HERE.

The biggest threat to the continued existence of Israel comes from the propaganda campaign that rejects Israel's right to exist. Read the essay by Professor Gerald M. Steinberg of Bar Ilan University, HERE.

Israel's response to Hurricane Harvey is, again, "a light unto nations." Make a donation to the disaster relief through IsraAID HERE

In the run for Illinois governor, Jewish State Senator Daniel Biss dropped his running mate, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, who was a supporter of the BDS movement. Read about it HERE.

Esther Meshoe, daugther of South African Parliamentarian Dr. Kenneth Meshoe, defends Israel a video, HERE.

Dealing with anti-Semitism is a larger problem that Charlottesville. Read David Harris's blog HERE.

While the Israeli government is embracing and financially supporting ultra-Orthodox policies, it is paying little attention to Masorti non-Orthodox Jewry. Masorti needs donations to deal with this funding disparity. Please consider a donation HERE.

Read a worthwhile essagy Palestinian Settler-Colonialism, by Dr. Alex Joffe, HERE

Donate to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund through the UJA Federation NY HERE.

Read the blog of Yehuda Kurtzer: Talking Nazis Personally (and Collectively), a well thought-out essay by a contemporary Jewish thinker that looks at Charlottesville from many angles of Jewish memory. This piece pleads that we work together rather than at cross purposes in our response, HERE.

Read Watching Charlottesville from Jerusalem, an excellent reflection by Daniel Gordis HERE.

Watch an animated video about how anti-Semitism has mutated over time, HERE.

Read The Truth Behind Bar Mitzvah Tears, by Wendy Jaffe. A reflection that says it all perfectly, HERE.

Learn the proper protocol to handle Palestinian activists on campuses as exemplified by Georgetown University HERE.

A video about all the wonderful aid Israel provides worldwide, that will bring a tear to your eyes HERE.

 

 

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