Author of "Embracing Auschwitz" and "Mensch•Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi - Wisdom for Untethered Times." Winner of the Rockower Award, the highest honor in Jewish journalism and 2019 Religion News Association Award for Excellence in Commentary. Musings of a rabbi, journalist, father, husband, poodle-owner, Red Sox fan and self-proclaimed mensch, taken from essays, columns, sermons and thin air. Writes regularly in the New York Jewish Week and Times of Israel.
Thursday, November 9, 2023
In This Moment: Going to DC? Be a Stringer for TBE! What Constitutes A Just War
In This Moment
Please note: We have been having some significant issues with Constant Contact, so some of you may have received these emails a day or two - or three - later than they were sent, Please be assured that I've been sticking to rate of one per day (other than Shabbat) and will continue that at least for the coming week. But no, I did not send out four of them today.
Going to the Rally in DC?
Be a Stringer for TBE!
Mark your place in history. Send me photos, short essays or anecdotes from the march. Email your fresh impressions to firstname.lastname@example.org,on your way home if possible! They'll appear in this newsletter that same night! (Waiting for the next day is fine too). TEENS' AND COLLEGE STUDENTS' ARTICLES WILL GET PRIORITY PLACEMENT.
I introduced these links last week, but this Shabbat morning, which is Veteran's Day, is the perfect time to discuss them. We'll be using the sources in the first link below to discuss what constitutes a just war in Jewish tradition, and why the current campaign checks the appropriate boxes. Our focus will be on pp. 49-58. We'll save the second link for another time. This material is taken from the series, Jewish Choices, Jewish Voices, by Dorff and Routtenberg.
Take a moment to remember the sacrifices of the brave men and women who have valiantly fought to so that America might continue to be a shining beacon of hope for the world. Especially during these dark times we need to be reminded what America has always been - and what it is capable of becoming again. Here are some relevant quotes, followed by a poem.
"I think there is one higher office than president and I would call that patriot." -Gary Hart
"This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave." -Elmer Davis
"A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself. "-Joseph Campbell
"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." -John F. Kennedy
"The willingness of America's veterans to sacrifice for our country has earned them our lasting gratitude."-Jeff Miller
"I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask, 'Mother, what was war?'" -Eve Merriam
"Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die." -G.K. Chesterton
"How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!" -Maya Angelou
"The hero is the man dedicated to the creation and / or defense of reality-conforming, life-promoting values." -Andrew Bernstein
"Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys. Look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death!" - Sun Tzu
"Without heroes, we are all plain people, and don't know how far we can go." - Bernard Malamud
The Last Soldier
When the last soldier passes on,
When armies are disbanded and militias discharged,
When weapons are abandoned and armor discarded,
Your mission will, at last, be over.
For you know the soldier's secret.
Yours was not a mission of war
Nor a mission of ruin.
Yours was not a mission of destruction
Nor a mission of death.
Your mission was safety, security, protection.
Your mission was honor, loyalty, service.
Your mission was to end violence, tyranny, despair.
When the last soldier passes on,
When the uniforms are retired and the final grave filled,
We will remember all who served and sacrificed for our nation.
One more point about apartheid, from a TBE congregant - "Isn't it strange that those who rightfully champion the rights of refugees to haven in countries of their choice, like the U. S. or Europe, deny the rights of Jewish refugees to haven in Israel?"
I Have Never Been to This Israel Before (NYT Thomas Friedman) - Biden cannot help Israel build a coalition of U.S., European and moderate Arab partners to defeat Hamas if Netanyahu’s message to the world remains, in effect: “Help us defeat Hamas in Gaza while we work to expand settlements, annex the West Bank and build a Jewish supremacist state there....Let me not mince words, because the hour is dark and Israel, as I said, is in real danger. Netanyahu and his far-right zealots have taken Israel on multiple flights of fancy in the last year: dividing the country and the army over the fraudulent judicial reform, bankrupting its future with massive investments in religious schools that teach no math and in West Bank Jewish settlements that teach no pluralism — while building up Hamas, which would never be a partner for peace, and tearing down the Palestinian Authority, the only possible partner for peace.
Even the Oppressed Have Obligations (Michael Walzer, The Atlantic) - Not every act of resistance is justified. After the Hamas attack on Israel October 7, an old, bad argument resurfaced. In the streets of New York, London, and Paris, and on American college campuses, protesters who consider themselves leftists took the position that oppressed people—Palestinians in this case, but oppressed people more generally—can do no wrong. Any act of “resistance” is justified, however cruel, however barbaric, however much these protesters would rage against it if it were committed by someone else... The murder of young and old Israelis has been justified, even celebrated, by people who, again, consider themselves leftists. For them, the Hamas murderers are not ordinary mortals, responsible for what they do; they are agents of resistance, doing what must be done in the name of liberation. Framed this way, the issue is simple: Oppressed people have a right to resist; the Palestinians have a right to struggle against the Israeli occupation. But rights come with obligations. What are the obligations of the oppressed and, most immediately, of those who act in their name? This may not seem like an urgent question, given the horrors of the war now unfolding. But it is a question for all time; it is about the moral and political health of all those who fight for liberation—and of everyone who wants to support them.
A rabbinic colleague of mine knows the family featured below and asks us to help them. The family has created a memorial fund for Adi’s children, Negev (age 4) and Eshel ( six months). Here is the link to the fund. https://www.geerz.site/.../adi-kaploun-vital-memorial-fund/. Tragically, the family lost everything on October 7th, and more - their home, their income, the working of the land that was Anani’s job on the kibbutz- and their very dear and special mother. How does one go on from here? How does one put a price tag on a life? And yet, the family and friends embracing Anani, Negev and Eshel are determined to provide them with the basic needs so that they can move forward.
The Adi Kaploun-Vital Memorial Fund: Adi was an incredible, humble, giving, loving, precious, and accomplished soul who died a hero – protecting her children and her father until her last breath. She leaves behind her dear husband, Anani, and her two young sons, Negev (age 4) and Eshel (6 months). Every dollar/shekel raised will go directly to Adi's family who have immediately relocated to Jerusalem and need significant funds to start rebuilding their life moving forward. Adi was a Canadian and an Israeli citizen who lived with her family in the peaceful Kibbutz Hulit in southern Israel. In the early morning hours of October 7, 2023, Hamas terrorists entered the kibbutz and began going from house to house, slaughtering innocent civilians, some of them entire families. Adi was hiding in her shelter with her 2 children while Adi's father was hiding in a shelter in the house across the way. Adi warned her father not to open the shelter door under any circumstance, even if the people on the other side claimed to be IDF soldiers. The Hamas terrorists tried to lure her father out three times in this manner and by listening to Adi, she saved his life. Adi was murdered in her safe room while protecting her two sons. It is a miracle that they survived. Eshel and Negev were finally reunited with their father when he thought he had lost them too. Our hearts go out to Adi's loved ones during this incredibly painful time. May her memory always be a blessing for them and may her dear family and friends know of no more sorrow.
What Oct. 7 has taught American Jews (Salkin, RNS) - (After the Six Day War) Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote: “I did not know how deeply Jewish I was.” Many American Jews are now echoing his words. They did not know how deeply Jewish they were. The Hebrew word for crisis is “mashber.” It contains the root, shavar, which means broken. A crisis is when something is broken. But, here is an amazing paradox. The word “mashber” is also the word for “birthing stool,” upon which women in the ancient world would crouch in order to give birth. From this, we learn that while a crisis implies brokenness — a crisis is also, potentially, a moment of birth.
Tel Aviv Diary (Marc Schulman) - The army reported as of today, Hamas has launched 9,500 rockets at Israel throughout this war, with 3,000 rockets fired on the first day alone. Today was relatively quiet, with no rockets targeting Tel Aviv or the center of the country. There was one rocket barrage at Ashdod and a few attacks on communities near Gaza.