Ha'azinu 5755

 

The High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, are over, thank God. We have made a concentrated effort to come close to the Rock of out beginning, the Source of our existence. We have stood in His court, and we feel good, knowing in our hearts that He has forgiven. It is in this mood that we gather in the synagogue to celebrate the Shabbat before Khag Hasukkot -- the Festival commemorating our miraculous survival in the desert during our travel and travail on the way to the promised land... We recall our own travail of the past ten days, the uncertainty, the hunger for His compassion. We listen to the reading in the Torah, one portion before the end of the fifth book. It is a song: Moses's "swan song." Moses the Lawgiver, Moses the Master, suddenly turns poet... The thirty second chapter of Deuteronomy begins with words that flow like honey: "Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; let the earth hear the words of my mouth. May my teaching drop like the rain, my speech condense like the dew; like gentle rain on grass, like showers on new growth. For I will proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock, his work is perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God, without deceit, just and upright is he;" Oh, how we love to hear his song. This great man, Moshe Rabenu, makes our inheritance sound as great and as valuable as any one of us would like to have. But now, suddenly, without a word of warning, he turns on us, as he continues, "yet his degenerate children have dealt falsely with him, a perverse and crooked generation. Do you thus repay the Lord, O foolish and senseless people? Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you? Remember the days of old, consider the years long past; ask your father, and he will inform you; your elders, and they will tell you. When the Most High apportioned the nations, when he divided humankind, he fixed the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the gods; the Lord's own portion was his people, Jacob his allotted share. He sustained him in a desert land, in a howling wilderness waste; he shielded him, cared for him, guarded him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirs up its nest, and hovers over its young; as it spreads its wings, takes them up, and bears them aloft on its pinions, the Lord alone guided him; no foreign god was with him. He set him atop the heights of the land, and fed him with produce of the field; he nursed him with honey from the crags, with oil from flinty rock; curds from the herd, and milk from the flock, with fat of lambs and rams; Bashan bulls and goats, together with the choicest wheat-- you drank fine wine from the blood of grapes." What has happened to our beloved shepherd? His prophetic eye beholds the future of the people he has guided. He knows their nature, and God has revealed to him their coming transgressions. He sees that "Jacob ate his fill; Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked. You grew fat, bloated, and gorged! He abandoned God who made him, and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation. They made him jealous with strange gods, with abhorrent things they provoked him. They sacrificed to demons, not God, to deities they had never known, to new ones recently arrived, whom your ancestors had not feared." He knows that there is no escaping the wrath of God which this behavior will bring. It is in the pain of a father for his children that Moses informs Israel, "The Lord saw it, and was jealous he spurned his sons and daughters. He said: I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end will be; for they are a perverse generation, children in whom there is no faithfulness." Knowing the full might of the Lord, Moses foresees that God will punish our generations more severely. Still, he wishes to plant within us hope of redemption. God is punishing Israel to teach them a lesson, as He says, "See now that I, even I, am he; there is no god besides me. I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and no one can deliver from my hand." Moses concluded the words of his poem with a final exhortation to Israel: "Take to heart all the words that I am giving in witness against you today; give them as a command to your children, so that they may diligently observe all the words of this law. This is no trifling matter for you, but rather your very life; through it you may live long in the land that you are crossing over the Jordan to possess."

Moses is done, and nothing is left for him but to leave the camp of the Israelites, to go into the hills and die and be buried by his able assistant and heir, Joshua. There will be no grave to make into a shrine. Moses, broken hearted and hopeful, leaves the stage, as we all must do, for the next cast of heroes and villains. This act of over -- but the play's not done! It goes on to this day -- and with God's help and Israel's perspicacity, shall continue for another thousand generations. Amen

 

 

Ha'azinu 5756

 

We are in the middle of the High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah is over, and Yom Kippur is still ahead. These are the days of awe, Yamim Nora'im. We have made a concentrated effort to come close to the Rock of our origin, the Source of our existence. We have stood in His court, and we feel good, hoping, nay -- knowing in our hearts that He has forgiven, and His sentence will be given with mercy and all possible consideration.

It is in this mood that we gather in the synagogue to celebrate this Shabbat, the Shabbat before Yom Kippur, which is known as Shabbat Shuva. We listen to the reading from the Torah, one portion before the end of the fifth book. You may call the text Moses' "swan song." Moshe Rabenu, the Lawgiver, Moses the author of Torat Moshe, suddenly waxes poetic... The thirty second chapter of Devarim begins with words that flow like honey: "Ha'azi hashamayim vetishma ha'aretz imrei fi... Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; let the earth hear the words of my mouth. May my teaching drop like the rain, my speech condense like the dew; like gentle rain on grass, like showers on new growth. For I will proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock, his work is perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God, without deceit, just and upright is he;"

Oh, how we love to hear the first few verses of his song. This great man, Moshe Rabenu, makes our inheritance sound as great and as valuable as any one of us would like to have. But then, suddenly, without a word of warning, he turns on us, as he continues, "yet his degenerate children have dealt falsely with him, a perverse and crooked generation. Do you thus repay the Lord, O foolish and senseless people? Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you? Remember the days of old, consider the years long past; ask your father, and he will inform you; your elders, and they will tell you. When the Most High apportioned the nations, when he divided humankind, he fixed the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the gods; the Lord's own portion was his people, Jacob his allotted share. He sustained him in a desert land, in a howling wilderness waste; he shielded him, cared for him, guarded him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirs up its nest, and hovers over its young; as it spreads its wings, takes them up, and bears them aloft on its pinions, the Lord alone guided him; no foreign god was with him. He set him atop the heights of the land, and fed him with produce of the field; he nursed him with honey from the crags, with oil from flinty rock; curds from the herd, and milk from the flock, with fat of lambs and rams; Bashan bulls and goats, together with the choicest wheat-- you drank fine wine from the blood of grapes."

What has happened to our beloved shepherd? His prophetic eye beholds the future of the people he has guided. He knows their nature, and God Himself has revealed to him their coming transgressions. We recall that God had commanded him, in 31:19, to impress the words of this song upon their memory forever, so that in the time of their distress they will recall. Moshe sees that "Jacob ate his fill; Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked. You grew fat, bloated, and gorged! He abandoned God who made him, and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation." He knows that there is no escaping the wrath of God. Moses foresees that God will punish our generations most severely. Still, he wishes to plant within us the hope of a coming redemption. He concluded the words of his poem with a final exhortation to Israel: "Take to heart all the words that I am giving in witness against you today; give them as a command to your children, so that they may diligently observe all the words of this law."

Then we go to the reading from the prophets, the haftara. Here we find the words of Hosea, who personalized the shortcomings of Israel in his own life. His wife betrayed him, his children forgot him. Still, he gives us hope and a message of the coming redemption: "Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Take words with you and return to the Lord; say to him, "Take away all guilt; accept that which is good, and we will offer the fruit of our lips. Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses; we will say no more, 'Our God,' to the work of our hands. In you the orphan finds mercy." I will heal their disloyalty; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily, he shall strike root like the forests of Lebanon. His shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive tree, and his fragrance like that of Lebanon. They shall again live beneath my shadow, they shall flourish as a garden; they shall blossom like the vine, their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon."

Hosea was the prophet whose words gave the sages the answer to the critical issue at the time of the destruction -- what to do to allow the Jewish people atonement without the offer of sacrifices in the Temple. "Take words with you and return to the Lord" -- prayer, if it is spoken with sincerity of heart, is far superior to the smell of burning animal fat. Many prophets before Hosea spoke of God's revulsion of rivers of fat and columns of smoke, but Hosea was the one who actually gave us the preferred alternative. Based on his teaching, Rabban Yokhanan Ben-Zakka'y told his student, Rabbi Y'hoshu'a, "There is another way to gain atonement -- and it is gmilut khasadim, the doing of good deeds." The Untane Tokef prayer of the High Holidays gives us the "Triple T" formula: Tfila, Tshuva, and Tzedaka will avert the evil decree. Prayer, a return to God, and acts of lovingkindness and mercy! Such a simple formula -- yet such a great challenge. May we all heed the words of all our sages, and may God inscribe us is the Book of Life.

 

 

Shabat Ha’azinu  5761

This shabbat we read Moshe Rabeinu’s “swan song,” his last words to the people he led for over forty years. For the first time he speaks to them in words that are sheer poetry. “Give ear, O you heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.

My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass; Because I will proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are justice; a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.” [Deu. 32:1-4] Well, I shall not wax poetic as my comments invoke thge rage of a son of the Land of Promise over the outrage that is going on in that land. So, ha’azinu hashama’yim, Give ear, O you heavens, va’adabra, and I will speak, vetishma ha’aretz dibrey fi, and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.

This past summer Palestinians and Israelis negotiated long and hard at camp David to try to come to a fair conclusion of a century old conflict. They failed, in spite of the fact that Israel was willing to make such far-reaching concessions that only a few short months earlier would have brought charges of crimes against the sovereignty of the state. A week ago, on Wednesday, two days before Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the holiest time of year for world Jewry, Ehud Barak, Israel’s Prime Minister hosted Yasser Arafat at his home for dinner. Mr. Barak said that it was, "a warm, open meeting," the purpose of which was to improve a personal rapport between the two neighboring leaders. According to reports it was just a social evening, and contentious subjects were not discussed. At the end of the evening, the PM stood waving as an Israeli military helicopter whisked Arafat back to Gaza.

The next day, Ariel Sharon, leader of Israeli opposition’s party, led a delegation to the Temple Mount, upon which the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque stand. The visit had been announced about a week earlier, and passed without incident. However, within an hour of the delegation’s departure, there began a wave of Palestinian rioting in Jerusalem that left four dead and some 200 injured that day. Soon, bands of stone- and firebomb-throwing Palestinians emerged throughout the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, attacking isolated Jewish settlements or military outposts. In one case, a Palestinian policeman murdered an Israeli officer and wounded another – they were his partners in a bi-national inspection team. In another incident, an Israeli soldier was killed in a bomb attack in Gaza. In a third, a 24-year old Israeli traveling book salesman was murdered while changing a tire in the West Bank. But the majority of casualties have been sustained by Palestinians: More than 40 deaths and 1,000 injuries as of yesterday. "It's a new situation," one Palestinian on the scene said, "It's war."

Crazy as it may sound, there are actually those who fault Ariel Sharon for "provocatively leading his supporters to the Temple Mount." That view has even been opined by French President Jacques Chirac and, with slightly less emphasis, our own State Department. But even some of Sharon's harshest critics say otherwise. It has been reported that when Mr. Barak was asked by Israeli state radio whether the Sharon visit had sparked the riots, he answered clearly, "No. It has nothing to do with it." I believe that the P.M. is right. Sharon was merely exercising his right to visit a site open to the public. That right belongs to him no less than to anyone else, Israeli, Palestinian, Moslem, Christian or Jew. And it belongs to him precisely because the Temple Mount falls under Israel's tolerant stewardship, rather than the previous, exclusionary Jordanian regime. For all the pious talk about "sharing" the Holy City, such as was recently heard from U.S. Ambassador Martin Indyk, anyone who has actually been there knows that each and every religion administers its sacred places in the Old City, as well as anywhere else in Jerusalem and every other site in the Holy Land without any interference what-so-ever from Israeli authorities. Paradoxically, only Jews who do not abide by Orthodox law are discriminated against.

So, logic would suggest that surely blame for the violence must fall squarely upon those who started it, which in every instance so far seems to have been the Palestinians. Why is it, we wonder, there's been so little reporting of the fact that the Muslim religious authorities on the Temple Mount helped spark the riot by denouncing Ariel Sharon's visit? And why were Palestinian security forces, who under Article eight of that blessed “peace agreement,” the Oslo Accord, were supposed to ensure public order and security, joining the battle, murdering their “peace” partners? Who among the top leaders of the Palestinian Authority sanctioned, approved, authorized -- or at least did nothing to stop the violence?

Is it possible, is it just maybe reasonable to postulate that precisely because the hitherto "non-negotiable" city is up for grabs, Mr. Arafat has gained an incentive to make East Jerusalem utterly ungovernable for Israel? For the past seven years, President Clinton has failed to rebuke, much less punish, the Palestinians for building up their arsenal of weapons vastly in excess of what Oslo allowed, one reason why the current battle is so bloody.

I firmly believe that Israel, and the United States, must make it abundantly clear, yet again, to the Palestinians that resorting to violence is not an acceptable negotiating tactic that will lead to peace in the area.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, meanwhile, has failed to match Israel’s prime minister Barak's flexibility in breaking old “red lines” and accepted taboos in the search for peace. He was even condemned by President Bill Clinton for the collapse of the Camp David summit. Suddenly cast, in world opinion, in the role of the villain for failing to match Israel's willingness to compromise, Arafat this week cynically sacrificed dozens of children and youths as "martyrs" of his cause, in a transparent attempt to recapture the world's sympathy for the Palestinian cause.

Unfortunately, this shameless tactic seems to have worked, with even US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright rushing to accuse Likud chairman Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount last Thursday of igniting the Palestinian riots. Such an accusation is baseless, and it is to Barak's personal credit that he has come to his political rival's defense.

At this week's cabinet meeting, Barak listed the chronology behind this week's events. First and foremost was the roadside-bomb attack near Netzarim last Wednesday, in which Sgt. David Biri was fatally wounded. And then on Friday, before the riots on the Temple Mount, Border Police Supt. Yossi Tabaja was killed by his Palestinian partner on a joint patrol near Kalkilya.

In Paris, the prime minister has the chance to put the week's events in the proper perspective for the American secretary of state. More importantly, he has the chance to make it very clear to Yasser Arafat that, if the Palestinians truly want peace, then they should behave as if they do, and put a stop to the cycle of violence.

Unfortunately, for reasons we do not understand - some of them religious and some of them prejudicial, most Arabs hate Israel. It is a fact, plain and simple. And, after fifty two years of battle and terror, and another fifty before that of periodic massacres and brutal attacks, most of us hate them, distrust and suspect them. We live in perpetual dread and apprehension of one another. When they lift a stone, we lift a rifle, when they fire a gun, we respond with tanks and helicopters. No society which values the human decency, morality, mental health and a sembelance of sanity, concerned with the safety of its children and elderly can go on living this way forever.

In a couple of days, we shall spend Yom Kippur in the synagogue, recalling the “avodah,” the service conducted by the High Priest's prayer when he entered the innermost sanctuary of the Temple, when he would plead with God, "Grant us a year of peace," let us pray with great concentration, with “kavanah,” to the Almighty. Let us ask Him to grant wisdom to our national leaders, and a turn of heart to our neighbors and mortal enemies. Let nation not lift up sword against another. Let young men not learn war anymore. Let old soldiers forget their cunning. And let peace flow from every heart, to become a river of good will, an ocean of understanding, a universe of Love of God and reverence of all that he created.

 

Haazinu 5762

What an amazing couple of weeks we have been through! We started the holiday season early, with Slikhot on Saturday evening, the eighth of September. Ever since then the world has turned up-side-down, and we still have not got a hold of ourselves, nor do we have a real accounting of all that has befallen us. The rubble of the felled towers and the section of the Pentagon may be removed in the very near future - but where are the remains of the thousands of people who disappeared, seemingly without a trace.
This Shabbat we read in the Torah one portion before the end of the fifth book. It is a song: Moses's "swan song." Moshe our Lawgiver, Moses our Master turns poet on the eve of his demise. George Bernard Shaw said that anyone who has not written poetry before the age of thirty is a fool - as is anyone over thirty who does. But not so for our liberator and legislator. The thirty second chapter of Deuteronomy begins with words that flow like honey: "Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; let the earth hear the words of my mouth. May my teaching drop like the rain, my speech condense like the dew; like gentle rain on grass, like showers on new growth. For I will proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock, his work is perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God, without deceit, just and upright is he;" However, don't become too comfortable - Moshe is about to "turn" on us, pointing an angry finger at a fickle and faithless people who fail to hear and follow the greatest message of hope and love ever offered to mankind. "yet his degenerate children have dealt falsely with him, a perverse and crooked generation. Do you thus repay the Lord, O foolish and senseless people? Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you?" Moshe does not pull his punches, nor, this evening will I.
Our country has been attacked by terrorists. What happened is terrible, unfair, uncalled for, and without any justification. However, they were not unexpected. There have been many who predicted this attack - some for a number of years. When more than half the world is up in arms, and whole nations suffer the scourge of violence and lawlessness - one cannot remain immune even in a strong and vibrant great nation such as ours.
And, of course, into the midst of our shock and pain and confusion march the army of the nay sayers and doom prophets. "It is all our own fault," they say, "because we are free, because we are at peace, because we flaunt our success before the ‘have-nots' who are jealous of us..." And others open up the issue of guilt, "it's all happening because we are supporting the wrong regimes in South America, in the Middle East, in the far east..." Finally the agnostics come into the chorus, chiming in with their message of a chance-world that began with an accidental "big bang," and that will end in a just as accidental stupid eruption caused by some wretch with a bargain basement Atomic bomb. "Where was your God?" They ask. "Why did He not stop those evil terrorists before they had done their worst to us?" These are the same people who watched the holocaust unfold and asked why God allows this to happen... Their direct predecessors stood by while the inquisition did its worse, and Attila the Hun, and all the other despoilers of humanity.
Well, friends, let us remind them right here and now, that "freedom of choice," with which humanity was blessed (or cursed) by God swings both ways. If we are allowed to choose the good and the Godly; if we can be creative and productive and loving and caring and giving and inspiring - we can also be destructive and evil and base. God cannot stop us from doing our worst - or freedom would not exist. When evil manifests itself, it is the responsibility of the doer of that evil. In our tradition this is called "Rish'a." We pray daily that Rish'a should cease from the earth. So far, it has not. It will one day, when humanity will subscribe to God's teaching more faithfully.
""Ha'azinu hashamayim vetishma ha'aretz imrei fi... Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; let the earth hear the words of my mouth." God has been busy trying to prevent what happened. Consider that the four flights that were highjacked could have had as many as a thousand passengers on board. Miraculously only a quarter of that number were on those flights. God was surely with those poor victims as their lives were terminally interrupted - as is evidenced by the cell phone conversations between them and their dear ones before the end. To be sure, God was with the passengers on the flight that did not hit its target. Was it not God who inspired those ordinary men and women to sacrifice their lives in an open revolt against their interlocutors, a short battle that ended tragically but as a victory of Good over evil.
Was it not an act of God to confuse the terrorists and have them attack their targets early, before the majority of workers arrive? The World Trade Center was ‘home' to more than fifty thousand workers. Less than twenty thousand were there when the planes struck! Was it not the miraculous hand of God that kept the top floors from buckling under immediately upon impact? Is it not an act of God's protection that thousands upon thousands spent over an hour evacuating the buildings - some of them walking down eighty of ninety stories - without a panic, without some being trampled and stepped on. They came out whole, alive, and ready to help in the emergency. At the Pantegon, God made sure that the plane crashed in a section of the building that was undergoing renovation, so that very few of the offices were in use. The defense nerve center of our nation was not where the terrorists thought it would be, and it was not affected.
Finally, and most assuredly the most miraculous Godly activity of all, was the manner in which the entire system of air travel in our country came to an orderly stop. Thousands of flights converging on hundreds of airports, had to be diverted and put down in the shortest possible time. There was a continuing and present danger, and without a doubt a number of highjackings were prevented by the timely act of shutting down our skies. It was down with great care - and considering human fallability, with divine help. I just hope that God will continue to look after our country, our nation, and our world as well as He has done.

Amen

Shabat Ha'azinu 5763

This shabbat is the Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur - in the mids of the ten days, known as "days of awe," when we await God's final decree. We call is "Shabbat Shuva," the Shabbat of Shuva, which means "return." Why is it called that? Some say that it is because we are in ythe period when we seriously attempt to return to God. Others claim that it is because we wait for got to return with His verdict. Still others say that it is not "shabbat Shuva" but "Shabbat Tshuva," which means the Shabbat of coming back to God, or the Shabbat when God gives us His answer - another meaning for the word Tshuva.
This Shabbat we shall read Moshe Rabeinu's "swan song," his last words to the people he led for over forty years. When he begins to speaks to the people, he sooths them with words that are sheer poetry. "Ha'azinu hashama'yim v'adabera v'tishma ha'aretz imrey fi – Give ear, O you heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. Ya'arof kamatar lik'khi, tizal katal imrati, kise'irim aley deshe, kirevivim aley esev – My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distill as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass; Ki shem adona'y ekra, havu godel leloheynu – Because I will proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God. Hatzur tamim po'olo ki kol drakhav mishpat – He is the Rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are justice; El emuna v'eyn avel, tzadik v'yashar hu – a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he." [Deu. 32:1-4]
Moshe does not remain idyllic for long. In the next verse he begins to lash into the Israelites with words that could melt a heart of stone. "Not his the corruption, but his children are blemished; they are a perverse and crooked generation. Do you thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwise? is not he your father who has bought you? has he not made you, and established you?" [ibid 32:5,6] Woe to us! Moshe has turned against us! Or has he? When Moshe poetically rhapsodizes, "ha'azinu hashama'yim, Give ear, O you heavens, va'adabra, and I will speak, vetishma ha'aretz dibrey fi, and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth" – is he really waxing poetic to his charges for the past thirty years? Not really! He speaks to Shana'yim Va'aretz – heaven and earth – by-passing his charges! "And why is that," you ask, and the answer is clear, "his children are blemished" the new generation that grew in the desert, like the one that came out of Egypt, is "a perverse and crooked generation."
That was then – but it has not changed! It is the same thing today! And the closer the people are, in their own mind, to God, the more they seem to stray far from him. Ask Moshe! He spoke to the clouds, so that they wilol rain the truth upon us, he exhorted the grass beneath our feet so it will tickle our toes into understanding the message. "Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you; your elders, and they will tell you. When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he set apart the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the people of Israel. For the Lord's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirs up its nest, flutters over its young, spreads out its wings, takes them, bears them on its pinions; So the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him. He made him ride on the high places of the earth, and he ate the produce of the fields; and he made him suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock; Butter of cows, and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs, and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the fat of kidneys of wheat; and you did drink the wine of the pure blood of the grape." [ibid 32:7-14]
What has the Lord not done for this generation of God fearing people, be they Jews of Gentiles? He vanquished the most pernicious enemies – the Nazis and the Communists - that threatened the future of our planet. Two generations ago the world was a twilight place, either at the end of creation or on the verge of extinction. We came up to an age of reason, at that time, stopped the mad rush to self-destruction, and began to fashion a better world, a world that God Almighty wants us to inhabit. And we let down our guard. We got tired. The guard fell asleep on his watch.
Moshe foresaw all this, as he continued his song of prophetic vision, "But Jeshurun became fat, and kicked; you have become fat, you have become thick, you are covered with fatness; then he forsook God who made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation. They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger. They sacrificed to powerless spirits, not to God; to gods whom they knew not; to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not." [ibid 32:15-17] We refused to see the writing on the wall. We became obsessed with saving and improving our way of life with no thought of the price of freedom. We heard the news of terror in Africa and shrugged our shoulders; we saw the face of death at the Munich Olympics and demanded that the games go on; we tried to keep peace in Mogadishu – until we began to take casualties; we compromised in Herzegovina and got Kosova; we closed an eye in Kosova – and got hit hard at the WTC and the Pentagon.
"Where was God," ask the cynics. You know where He was, don't you? He was saving lives, where millions could have died, only tens of thousands did. Where tens of thousands could have died, only a couple of thousands perished. God gave us "free will," and we work our wickedness, while he tries to limit the harm we do. The answer, for this Shabbat Tshuva, the answering day of rest, is a question: "Where are you? And where will you go from here?"


Shabbat shalom and Gmar tov.

 

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