t was almost two months ago that I wrote about #bringbackourgirls, lamenting the kidnapping of a school full of young girls in Nigeria and talking about the sad relevance of the mitzvah of pidyon sh'vuyim / redeeming captives.
Here we are again, two months after the Nigerian girls were captured by the Boko Haram terrorist group. Some of those girls escaped, some are still in captivity and are being held prisoner until they can be exchanged, apparently, for Boko Haram activists being held in Nigerian prisons. We do not know the fate or state of those girls. Let us not forget them as each news cycle brings us fresher causes for concern.
We must, though, protest, voice our outrage, yell into the wind: the new vogue in terrorism seems to be the capture of children. Three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped by the Hamas terror organization just over a week ago.
There is little sense in asking why when discussing an act of terror. The "why" is to generate terror. And now, apparently, with the well-oiled mechanisms of social media, a new "why" is to draw the world's attention to the terrorist cause. Free publicity. Had you ever heard of Boko Haram, or knew what it meant before mid-April? Had you grown complacent about Hamas as it took its place in the government of the Palestinian Authority? The horror of children in captivity is too painful to contemplate for more than a moment or two . . . but those children, the remaining captive Nigerian girls and Israel's three boys, are living that horror every single moment of every single day.
This week's Torah reading, Korach, opens with one of the Torah's most difficult passages. A leader from the tribe of Levi, Korach, stirs up a crowd and pushes into Moses' face challenging Moses' authority and therefore challenging God's choices and leadership as well. The fate of the rebels is brutal: they, their homes, their families are all swallowed up by the earth. This is, of course, a cautionary tale against challenging God's authority and decisions. At a time like ours, as we look with helpless outrage at the faces of terrorist-abducted children, we wish some of that biblical justice could be meted out right now while the children are whisked safe and sound back to the embrace of their families.
God has adjusted the parameters of divine intervention in human affairs since the days of Korach and, I believe, is a source of strength, wisdom and guidance for us in the face of events we cannot fathom alone. We will pray for Gilad Shaer, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach . . . and their parents and all those who love them at Shabbat services here at Torat Yisrael.
For those of us who find that music helps express what is deepest in our hearts, here is a video of a song by two Israeli musicians:
One of the key elements of this week's Torah reading is introduced in the opening passage. God instructs Moses: "Send men and let them scout the land of Canaan that I'm giving to the children of Israel...." From that moment to this very day, Jews have examined the Land from outside her borders and used the culled information to sustain our bonds to that place.
This past week was one of the times when diaspora Jewish communities all around the world were focussed sharply on Israel. The Knesset was voting to appoint the 10th president of the State of Israel.
Many of us regretted, but reluctantly accepted the inevitability of , President Shimon Peres' retirement. Over the course of his decades of service to the State of Israel, the people of Israel and the Jewish people as a whole, Shimon Peres has been much more a statesman than a politician. He has proven to be an insightful and wise leader and innovator.
After months of conjecture, lobbying, speculating and commenting, the members of Israel's Knesset have elected Shimon Peres' successor, Ruby Rivlin. Mr. Rivlin is a controversial figure from the point of view of Jews living outside the state of Israel.
I invite you to follow the link I've provided to read an insightful "Open Letter" to Israel's new president by Times of Israel blogger and president of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, Yehuda Kurtzer. You'll find a balanced and intelligent review of Mr. Rivlin's career and an intelligent presentation of the concerns raised here in the American Jewish community. I join Mr. Kurtzer in hoping that our most dire predictions about Mr. Rivlin's presidency will prove baseless:
There are many points of value to discuss in this week's Parashah / Torah portion, but this week I feel compelled to relate to a current and pressing concern: I will be joining my colleagues and friends in the #notonemore campaign, an opportunity for the grassroots to raise our voices against incident after incident of gun violence in our country.
There are moments when individual liberties must be constrained for the common good. Our country is living through one of these moments. The rest of the world looks at us burying bystanders and children and passersby and shake their head in wonder at our stubbornness.
So I ask, if you feel that gun control legislation and enforcement is falling short, if you are sickened when you hear of mass, random and accidental shootings, then please consider participating with is. Make a handmade sign that says: #NotOneMore and take a selfie or have someone take your picture, send it to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will forward all our photographs to my colleague, Rabbi Menachem Creditor, who is organizing this effort.
We do not have to sit in silence, sit broken-heartened and passive in the face of these murders and injuries.
Today we mark the first day of the Hebrew month of Sivan. Few first days of the month in the Hebrew calendar serve as milestones of significance as does this date. Since the second evening of Passover, over six weeks ago, we have been counting the Omer, marking the beginning of each Hebrew day (in the evening) with a blessing and a ritual counting of the day. Like marking off days on a calendar in anticipation of a great event, counting the Omer is our Jewish anticipation-builder . . . for at the end of the counting we will have arrived at the 6th of Sivan, Shavuot, the festival marking the paradigm-creating revelation of Torah at Sinai. From the moment that our Israelite ancestors looked back at the Sea of Reeds behind them and found their pursuers drowning in the waters that God had held back for them, until approaching the wilderness of Sin (please don't get caught up in the coincidence between the English word "sin" and the Hebrew geographic term, there is really and truly no connection save coincidence) the Israelites had already experienced some elevating and some challenging moments: They had faced the uncertainties of food and water in the wilderness and learned to rely on God to sustain them; they had been introduced to Shabbat as a day of rest for God (who did not produce manna on Shabbat) and for themselves (they did not collect manna on Shabbat); they withstood a fierce attack by Amalek and his troops and were defended by Joshua and the Israelite troops sustained and inspired by God; Moses, advised by his father-in-law, Jethro, established a system of self-governance and dispute resolution . . . all before arriving at Sinai.
Although the walk to Sinai was through uncharted territory, the wandering of our ancestors was not random. The Israelites arrived at the third new moon . . . today's date, the beginning of the month of Sivan . . . guided by God's pillar of cloud during the day and pillar of fire by night and there they prepared themselves for the most extraordinary event they could not possibly anticipate.
I took a look at the challenges our walk from Passover to this first day of Sivan has involved as we, too, prepare to re-experience the revelation of Torah on Shavuot this coming week. We have mourned the victims of the Holocaust and shuddered when notes bearing Nazi rhetoric were handed to Jews attending Passover services in the Ukraine. We have found compassion and the conviction to speak out on behalf of the abducted schoolgirls of Nigeria, a compelling contemporary parallel to our own slavery story. We have organized to lobby for poverty-alleviating legislation here in Rhode Island. We have mourned both the troops who gave their lives for the establishment and defense of the State of Israel and those who gave their lives for the establishment and defense of the United States of America in two Memorial Days. Even in these GPS-guided days, our wanderings take us through uncharted territory.
We know that something great is going to happen next week. We have the advantage over our wilderness-walking ancestors in knowing that the revelatory moment awaiting us can bring wisdom and guidance, inspiration and challenge. The Sinai revelation was not a one-time event . . . our tradition teaches us that revelatory moments happen throughout time. When we come together as a community on Shavuot this week, let us stand shoulder-to-shoulder ready to accept the renewal of covenant with God which is the glue that binds us together . . . binds us to God and binds us to each other.
Letting the eternal and eternally renewing teachings of Torah into our daily lives will guide our walking and provide us with goals and aspirations and the tools to navigate the complexities we encounter in life.
This Shabbat, we embark on our annual reading of the book of Bamidbar, in English, the book of Numbers. The English name for this fourth book of the Torah is taken from the opening verses in which Moses is directed to conduct a census . . . "Add up the heads of all of the congregation of Israel by their families, by their fathers' houses, with the number of names of every male by their heads. From twenty years old and up, everyone going out to the army in Israel: you shall count them by their army units, you and Aaron." (Bamidbar/Numbers 1:2-3)
It is of profound significance to me that the United States Memorial Day and our reading of the opening passages of Numbers / Bamidbar coincide this weekend.
There are so many ways a God-ordained census of the Israelites might have been structured: There could have been a count of each woman and her progeny; there could have been a count of each household within each tribe; there could have been a count of each head of family . . . but this was a count of each male, twenty years old and up, able-bodied and serving in the army. God was instructing Moses to prepare for wandering through a wilderness, an intermittently populated wilderness in which it was going to be necessary to defend the column of trekking Israelites: men, women, children, elderly, ill and well. From a military point of view, it is, of course, important to know how many troops are at your command. From a community's point of view, it is, or should be, crucial to know the name of every single individual placing life on the line for the sake of the safety and integrity of the community.
In my close to 20 years living in Israel, I became part of a population protected by a citizens' army: our sons and daughters were drafted after high school, trained superbly, served honorably and then came home, or didn't. Every single military death in Israel is honored by the entire country: every fallen soldier's name, photograph, rank are shared on the national evening news. The entire country mourns, for every fallen soldier is a child of ours. Israel is a small country, so we feel these losses in a very immediate sense. Every family has someone who has served, is serving or is about to serve in the Israel Defense Forces, so we feel these losses in a very immediate sense. There is meaningful counting, census, acknowledging each individual in Israel, not just on the Shabbat we begin the reading of the book of Numbers.
When I came back to the States, I found the distance between the general population and our military losses to be disturbing, wrong, unhealthy. So it has been my practice to share not the just the numbers, but the names, ranks, ages and home states of those killed serving our country since the previous Memorial Day each year. We should enjoy the weekend's barbecues and family gatherings . . . but let us spend more than a moment acknowledging that we are enjoying this leisure because our children have served honorably and many have lost their lives serving our country.
Yes, we may have differences of opinions about the policies that have brought our troops into the range of fire; but our support and appreciation and mourning for our children who have died in military service is not a political or policy issue, it is a sacrifice we must humbly acknowledge.
Please do not skip over the rest of this blog.
Please read each and every name.
These are the US troops who died serving in Afghanistan since last Memorial Day . . . יהיו זכרם ברוך: May their memories be blessed; may their families be blessed with healing and peace of mind.
Date of death Name Rank Age Service Home State
5-17-2014 Perkins, Adrian M. Specialist 19 U. S. Army California
5-13-2014 Barreras, Martin R Command Sergeant Major 49 U. S. Army Arizona
5-11-2014 Rasmussen, Deric M. Chief Warrant Office 33 U. S. Army California
4-28-2014 Chandler, Christian J. Private 1st Class 20 U. S. Army Texas
4-28-2014 Farrell II, Shawn M. Sergeant 24 U. S. Army New York
4-15-2014 Danyluk, Kerry M. G. Specialist 27 U. S. Army Texas
4-01-2014 Chaffin III, James E. Captain 27 U. S. Army South Carolina
2-28-2014 Poirier, David L Master Sergeant 52 U.S. Air Force Rhode Island
2-28-2014 Erickson, Caleb L. Lance Corporal 20 U.S. Marine Minnesota
2-15-2014 Torian, Aaron C. Master Sergeant 36 U. S. Marine Kentucky
2-12-2014 Pelham, John A. Specialist 22 U. S. Army Oregon
2-12-2014 Skelt, Roberto C. Sergeant 41 U. S. Army Florida
2-10-2014 Landis, Christopher A. Specialist 27 U. S. Army Kentucky
2-10-2014 Gray, Joshua A. Private 1st Class 21 U.S. Army Kentucky
1-20-2014 Balli, Edward Chief Petty Officer 42 U. S. Army California
1-17-2014 Sipple, Andrew H. Specialist 22 U. S. Army North Carolina
1-15-2014 Lee, Daniel Tyler Sergeant 28 U. S. Army Tennessee
1-10-2014 Scobie, Drew M. Sergeant 25 U. S. Army National Guard Hawaii
1-10-2014 McAdams, Andrew L. Chief Warrant Officer 27 National Guard Wyoming
1-04-2014 Lacey, William K. Sergeant 1st Class 38 U. S. Army Florida
1-01-2014 Hess, Jacob M. Sergeant 22 U. S. Marine Washington
12-27-2013 Lyon, David I. Captain 28 U. S. Air Force Idaho
12-23-2013 Vasselian, Daniel M. Sergent 27 U. S. Marine Massachusetts
12-17-2013 Billings, Randy L. Chief Warrant Officer 2 34 U. S. Army Oklahoma
12-17-2013 Silverman, Joshua B. Chief Warrant Officer 2 35 U. S. Army Arizona
12-17-2013 Bohler, Peter C. Sergeant 29 North Carolina
12-17-2013 Forde, Omar W. Sergeant 1st Class 28 U. S. Army Georgia
12-17-2013 Gordon, Terry K. D. Specialist 22 U. S. Army Mississippi
12-17-2013 Williams, Jesse L Staff Sergeant 30 U. S. Army Indiana
12-11-2013 Smith, James L. Petty Officer 1st Class 38 U. S. Navy Texas
12-11-2013 Rodriguez, Matthew R. Lance Corporal 19 U. S. Marine Massachusetts
11-17-2013 Viola, Alex A. Staff Sergeant 29 U.S. Army Texas
11-13-2013 Vazquez, Richard L. Staff Sergeant 28 U. S. Army Texas
11-03-2013 Robertson, Forrest W. Sergeant 1st Class 35 U. S. Army Kansas
10-20-2013 Grant, Christopher O. Lance Corporal 20
10-18-2013 Turnbull, Lyle D. Sergeant 31 U. S. Army Virginia
10-13-2013 Quinn, Patrick H. Sergeant 26 U. S. Army Pennsylvania
10-06-2013 Moreno, Jennifer M. 1st Lieutenant 25 U. S. Army California
10-06-2013 Hawkins, Patrick C. Sergeant 25 U. S. Army Pennsylvania
10-06-2013 Peters, Joseph M. Sergeant 24 U. S. Army Missouri
10-06-2013 Patterson, Cody J. Private 1st Class 24 U. S. Army Oregon
10-05-2013 Lopez, Angel L. Specialist 27 U. S. Army Ohio
10-05-2013 Collins, Jeremiah M. Lance Corporal 19 U.S. Marine Wisconsin
9-26-2013 Baysore, Jr., Thomas A. Staff Sergeant 31 U. S. Army Pennsylvania
9-22-2013 Gibson, Jonathan S. Chief Warrant Officer 32 U.S. Navy Oregon
9-22-2013 Jones, Landon L. Lieutenant Commander 35 U.S. Navy California
9-21-2013 Nevins, Liam J. Staff Sergeant 32 U. S. Army Colorado
9-21-2013 McGill, Timothy R. Staff Sergeant 30 U. S. Army New Jersey
9-21-2013 Strickland, Joshua J. Specialist 23 U. S. Army Georgia
9-20-2013 Wickliffchacin, James T. Specialist 22 U. S. Army Oklahoma
9-19-2013 Brown III, William D. Sergeant 44 U. S. Army North Carolina
9-13-2013 Thomas Jr., Robert E. Staff Sergeant 24 U. S. Army California
9-05-2013 Lobraico Jr., Todd J. Staff Sergeant 22 U. S. Air Force Connecticut
8-31-2013 Bowden, Joshua J. Staff Sergeant 28 U. S. Army Georgia
8-28-2013 Ollis, Michael H. Staff Sergeant 24 U. S. Army New York
8-28-2013 Young, Ricardo D. Sergeant 1st Class 34 U. S. Army Arkansas
8-26-2013 Togi, Jason 1st Lieutenant 24 U. S. Army American Samoa
8-23-2013 Alvarez, Kenneth Clifford Specialist 23 U. S. Army California
8-23-2013 Hostetter, Jonathon Michael Dean Private 20 U. S. Army Missouri
8-20-2013 Banner Jr., George A. Master Sergeant 37 U.S. Army Virginia
8-11-2013 Hicks, Jamar A. Sergent 22 U. S. Army Arkansas
8-11-2013 Grace Jr., Keith E. Specialist 26 U. S. Army Texas
8-11-2013 Herrera, Octavio Staff Sergeant 26 U. S. Army Idaho
8-06-2013 Welch, Nickolas S. Specialist 26 U. S. Army Oregon
7-30-2013 Burley, Nicholas B. Specialist 22 U. S. Army California
7-28-2013 New, Stephen M. Sergeant 29 U. S. Army Tennessee
7-27-2013 Lawson, Eric T. Sergeant 30 U. S. Army Georgia
7-27-2013 Nouv, Caryn E. Specialist 29 U. S. Army Virginia
7-23-2013 Russell, Jonam 1st Lieutenant ?0 U. S. Army Arizona
7-23-2013 Smith, Stefan M. Sergent 24 U. S. Army Georgia
7-23-2013 Nichols, Rob L. Specialist 24 U. S. Army Colorado
7-22-2013 Maddox, Anthony R. Specialist 22 U. S. Army Texas
7-16-2013 Zimmerman, Sonny C. Staff Sergeant 25 U. S. Army Ohio
7-14-2013 Tuttle, Benjamin W. Lance Corporal 19 U. S. Marine Arkansas
7-04-2013 Milliard, Errol D.A. Private 18 U. S. Army Alabama
7-03-2013 Stapley, Tracy L. First Sergeant 44 U. S. Army Utah
7-02-2013 Clayton, Hilda I. Specialist 22 U. S. Army Georgia
6-28-2013 Rogers, Justin R. Sergeant 25 U.S. Army New York
6-23-2013 Garver, Corey E. Sergeant 25
6-23-2013 Sanchez Jr., Javier Specialist 28 U. S. Army California
6-19-2013 Johnson, Justin R. Sergeant 25 U. S. Army Florida
6-19-2013 Alt, Ember M. Specialist 21 U. S. Army South Carolina
6-19-2013 Ellis, Robert W. Specialist 21 U. S. Army Washington
6-19-2013 Moody, William R. Specialist 30 U. S. Army Texas
6-16-2013 Brown, Jared W. Lance Corporal 20 U. S. Marine Florida
6-10-2013 Thomas Jr., Jesse L. Staff Sergeant 31 U. S. Army Florida
6-08-2013 Leonard, Jaimie E. Major 39 U. S. Army New York
6-08-2013 Clark, Todd J. Lieutenant Colonel 40 U. S. Army New York
6-03-2013 Sisson, Justin L. 2nd Lieutenant 23 U.S. Army Arizona
6-03-2013 Pierce, Robert A. Specialist 20 U.S. Army Oklahoma
6-02-2013 Mullen, Sean W. Warrant Officer 39 U.S. Army Delaware
6-01-2013 Stoeckli, Kyle P. Specialist 21 U.S. Army Virginia
6-01-2013 Ramirez, Ray A. Specialist 20 US Army California
6-01-2013 Raymundo, Mariano M. Private 1st Class 21 U.S. Army Texas
5-30-2013 Nunezrodriguez, Joe A. Staff Sergeant 29
This past Wednesday our Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty in Rhode Island gathered for our 6th Annual "Fighting Poverty With Faith" Conference. A clear consensus among us all, clarified and beautifully expressed by our keynote speaker, Sister Simone Campbell of "Nuns on the Bus", is that wishing, complaining, even sermonizing isn't enough. We must act.
In that spirit, I bring you two resources. The first is an introduction to being a proactive citizen: how to communicate with your elected leaders to tell them what you want them to vote for. The second is a link to the legislative agenda set by the Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty in Rhode Island. We hope very much that you will use these materials to convey your concern for Rhode Island's most vulnerable residents and encourage our elected officials to fulfill their responsibilities as the elected officials of all Rhode Islanders.
A Beginner’s Guide to Letting Your Legislators Know What You Want Them To Vote For*
The Israelites are permitted to have slaves themselves, but not in the manner of the Egyptians. They cannot overwork them. They cannot mistreat them (so an Israelite who knocks out his slave's tooth must set the slave free; Exodus 21:1). The rules that are imposed on treatment of slaves in the Torah involve a recognition of a slave's humanity and dignity, and they establish that a slave has rights. This was a crucial stage in the long process leading to opposition to slavery altogether. (Commentary on the Torah, pg. 406)
There is a principle of Jewish law that compels us to be as proactive as possible in bringing these girls back to safety, the mitzvah/commandment of פדיון שבויים / pidyon shvuyim / redeeming the captives. There is some controversy about the application of this imperative for it's roots are in the historic reality of the kidnapping of Jews for ransom over the years. Can we, therefore, consider it a mitzvah to redeem captive Nigerian school girls? Based on the writings of the great halachist [scholar of Jewish law] Rambam/Maimonides, I would say "yes":
Maimonides writes: “The redeeming of captives takes precedence over supporting the poor or clothing them. There is no greater mitzvah than redeeming captives for the problems of the captive include being hungry, thirsty, unclothed, and they are in danger of their lives too. Ignoring the need to redeem captives goes against these Torah laws: “Do not harden your heart or shut your hand against your needy fellow” (Devarim 15:7); “Do not stand idly by while your neighbor’s blood is shed” (Vayikra 19:16). And misses out on the following mitzvot: “You must surely open your hand to him or her” (Devarim 15:8); “...Love your neighbor as yourself” (Vayikra 19:18); “Rescue those who are drawn to death” (Proverbs 24:11) and there is no mitzvah greater than the redeeming of captives.” (Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Matanot Aniyim 8:10-11)
- Continue to show public interest and concern for the girls.
- Encourage our legislators to fund the efforts to locate and rescue the girls.
- Extend expressions of sympathy and support to our friends, co-workers and neighbors of Nigerian origin.
- Reject vocally and with conviction the concept that the Islam propounded by the terrorists is in any way a true reflection of the Islam of peace and respect for humanity practiced by our Muslim neighbors here in Rhode Island.
Not a week goes by when there is not some news item about Israel or the middle east. This week, as we commemorate Israel's fallen defense forces during Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day) and transition into the celebrations around Yom Ha'atzma'ut (Independence Day), I think it's worth taking a few moments to reflect on the beginnings of the State of Israel.
Israel is a unique mixture of ancient roots and modern formation: Through much of the book of Breishit/Genesis, we witness God's promise to Abraham and his progeny that their relationship with God's land will be part of an eternal covenant. This element of our brit/covenant with God is so essential to our being, we have turned daily to face that land as we pray no matter where in the world we are: South African Jews face north, the Jews of Scotland turn south, Jews in Tokyo face west and we here in Rhode Island face east during prayer. The element of The Land is so central to our brit/covenant with God, that our rabbinic literature has embroidered and elevated the nature of The Land in order to foster this ongoing love for God's Land: the fruit is sweeter, the animals healthier, milk and honey (actually date syrup!) flows with abundance. These images inspired us during millennia of exile. Jews in Europe would leave a small patch of wall unpainted in the upper corner of a room in their homes to show that life is incomplete as long as we are living anywhere but The Land.
Since 1948, the Land of Israel has transformed into a modern polity, the State of Israel. In 66 short years, a breathtakingly beautiful and raucous and fragile and steadfast and ground-breaking and brilliant and bewildering and inspiring democracy has emerged. For a moment, let us put aside the contentious issues of the day and remember how the State of Israel took shape. What follows is the proclamation issued in Tel Aviv on May 14, 1948, the 5th of Iyar 5708. So much has happened since that day, and with the support and pride and involvement of Jews all over the world, the State of Israel will continue, with God's blessing, to thrive, grow and contribute as a respected nation.
Provisional Government of Israel
Official Gazette: Number 1; Tel Aviv, 5 Iyar 5708, 14.5.1948 Page 1
The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people.
Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.
After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.
Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades they returned in their masses. Pioneers, defiant returnees, and defenders, they made deserts bloom, revived the Hebrew language, built villages and towns, and created a thriving community controlling its own economy and culture, loving peace but knowing how to defend itself, bringing the blessings of progress to all the country's inhabitants, and aspiring towards independent nationhood.
In the year 5657 (1897), at the summons of the spiritual father of the Jewish State, Theodore Herzl, the First Zionist Congress convened and proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country.
This right was recognized in the Balfour Declaration of the 2nd November, 1917, and re-affirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations which, in particular, gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and Eretz-Israel and to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home.
The catastrophe which recently befell the Jewish people--the massacre of millions of Jews in Europe--was another clear demonstration of the urgency of solving the problem of its homelessness by re-establishing in Eretz-Israel the Jewish State, which would open the gates of the homeland wide to every Jew and confer upon the Jewish people the status of a fully privileged member of the community of nations.
Survivors of the Nazi holocaust in Europe, as well as Jews from other parts of the world, continued to migrate to Eretz-Israel, undaunted by difficulties, restrictions and dangers, and never ceased to assert their right to a life of dignity, freedom and honest toil in their national homeland.
In the Second World War, the Jewish community of this country contributed its full share to the struggle of the freedom- and peace-loving nations against the forces of Nazi wickedness and, by the blood of its soldiers and its war effort, gained the right to be reckoned among the peoples who founded the United Nations.
On the 29th of November, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel; the General Assembly required the inhabitants of Eretz-Israel to take such steps as were necessary on their part for the implementation of that resolution. This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their State is irrevocable.
This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State.
Accordingly we, members of the People's Council, representatives of the Jewish Community of Eretz-Israel and of the Zionist Movement, are here assembled on the day of the termination of the British Mandate over Eretz-Israel and, by virtue of our natural and historic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.
We declare that, with effect from the moment of the termination of the Mandate being tonight, the eve of Sabbath, the 6th Iyar, 5708 (15th May, 1948), until the establishment of the elected, regular authorities of the State in accordance with the Constitution which shall be adopted by the Elected Constituent Assembly not later than the 1st October 1948, the People's Council shall act as a Provisional Council of State, and its executive organ, the People's Administration, shall be the Provisional Government of the Jewish State, to be called "Israel." The State of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
The State of Israel is prepared to cooperate with the agencies and representatives of the United Nations in implementing the resolution of the General Assembly of the 29th November, 1947, and will take steps to bring about the economic union of the whole of Eretz-Israel.
We appeal to the United Nations to assist the Jewish people in the building-up of its State and to receive the State of Israel into the community of nations.
We appeal--in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months--to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.
We extend our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.
We appeal to the Jewish people throughout the Diaspora to rally round the Jews of Eretz-Israel in the tasks of immigration and upbuilding and to stand by them in the great struggle for the realization of the age-old dream--the redemption of Israel.
Placing our trust in the Almighty, we affix our signatures to this proclamation at this session of the provisional Council of State, on the soil of the Homeland, in the city of Tel-Aviv, on this Sabbath eve, the 5th day of Iyar, 5708 (14th May, 1948).
Daniel Auster Mordekhai Bentov Yitzchak Ben Zvi Eliyahu Berligne Fritz Bernstein Rabbi Wolf Gold Meir Grabovsky Yitzchak Gruenbaum Dr. Abraham Granovsky Eliyahu Dobkin Meir Wilner-Kovner Zerach Wahrhaftig Herzl Vardi Rachel Cohen Rabbi Kalman Kahana Saadia Kobashi Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Levin Meir David Loewenstein Zvi Luria Golda Myerson Nachum Nir Zvi Segal Rabbi Yehuda Leib Hacohen Fishman David Zvi Pinkas Aharon Zisling Moshe Kolodny Eliezer Kaplan Abraham Katznelson Felix Rosenblueth David Remez Berl Repetur Mordekhai Shattner Ben Zion Sternberg Bekhor Shitreet Moshe Shapira Moshe Shertok
We have collective hot button issues as well: events and phrases and words and images that are indelibly written into our very beings. You'd think that the distance of time or geography would lessen the power of these memories, but when we identify fully with the collective that has weathered the trauma, the gut reaction to reminders of that trauma remains. At the moment when we perceive those evocative images or sounds we find out how deeply our identification with our group (whatever group that might be) really goes. You are likely to witness a micro-expression of pain or anger on the face of a black friend hearing the "N" word, of a gay friend seeing a photograph of Tyler Clementi*, or a Haitian friend hearing a report of an earthquake....and on the face of an American Jew reading that Jews in the Ukraine are going to have to register, list their assets and pay a fine.
A few members of my congregation e-mailed links to news articles about the incident of the flyers being handed out to Jews leaving synagogue on the eve of Passover in the Ukraine. I admit, my stomach wrenched at those very evocative phrases: registering, bring your passport and your id card, list your assets . . . . I read and re-read. Of course my mind's eye delivered a slideshow of images from Nazi Europe, the Holocaust, the concentration camps . . . all in seconds before I had a chance to think. After a few deep breathes and reading a few articles, it became clear that no one is rounding up Jews in the Ukraine this week. It seems doubtful whether there was ever a serious intention to round up Jews in the Ukraine at all, but rather a heavy-handed attempt to influence the internal struggles over the fate of Donetsk.
Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking to reporters in Geneva after conducting talks with leaders from the Ukraine on the lowering of tensions there, said exactly what needed to be said: "In the year 2014, after all of the miles traveled and all of the journey of history, this is not just intolerable; it's grotesque. It is beyond unacceptable. And any of the people who engage in these kinds of activities, from whatever party or whatever ideology or whatever place they crawl out of, there is no place for that. "
Which doesn't mean, of course, that the situation should not be watched, or that anti-Semitism in Europe doesn't exist. But it does mean that the Jews of the Ukraine in 2014 are not in the same danger as their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents during World War II. For lots of reasons.
All this during the same week we are settling our stomachs over the murder of three people at two Jewish facilities in Overland Park, Kansas. By a person with a decades-long record of both racism and anti-Semitism. The horrible irony of the murders committed by this man is that two of the people he murdered were members of a United Methodist Church and one was the member of a Catholic church.
Anti-Semitism is most certainly a hot button: our guts, our hearts, our memories all kick into action immediately when we hear of violence or threat or attacks on Jews. And there is good reason for our visceral reactions; they don't come from nowhere.
On the other hand, as in the cases of both anti-Semitic episodes this week, things are not always what they seem in the moment and we need to step back and apply perspective and intelligence to our reactions. And be smart and aware. And not over-react. Not easy, but very important.
*Tyler Clementi was the gay Rutgers student who committed suicide in 2010 when his roommate posted videos of Tyler in acts of sex with a male partner.
Rabbi Amy Levin
has been Torat Yisrael's rabbi since the summer of 2004 and serves as President of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island.
Rabbi Levin lived in Israel for 20 years and was the second woman to be ordained by the Masorti/Conservative Movement in Israel.
Aaron / Kohanim
At Times Of Tragedy
Bar / Bat Mitzvah
Bring Back Our Boys
Community / Kehillah
Covenant / Brit
Deuteronomy / Dvarim
Exodus / Shmot
Exodus / Shmot
Genesis / Breishit
Halachah / Jewish Law
Holiness / Kedushah
Holocaust / Shoah
Isaiah / Yeshayahu
Israel And Jewish Observance
Jewish Fast Days
Kiddush Hashem / Sanctifying God
Korban / Sacrifice
Leviticus / Vayikra
Masorti: Israeli Conservative Movement
Memorial Day / Yom Hazikaron
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Month Of Sivan
Mourning / Aveilut
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Passover / Pesach
Pidyon Shevuyim / Redemption Of Captives
Power Of Speech
Privacy And Security
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
Rabbi Avraham Soltes
Rabbi Brad Artson
Rabbi Laura Geller
Reverend Martin Luther King
Song Of Songs / Shir Hashirim
Tabernacle / Temple
Western Wall / Old City Of Jerusalem