It was a tough week again in the aftermath of the burial of our boy’s Naphtali, Eyal and Gilad. It was tough both in Israel and for diaspora Jewry; tough in Israel because of the Hundreds of deadly rockets reigning down over Israel from its crazy neighbors.
It has become a game of Russian roulette, which rocket will hit its target and which will not, which will be intercepted by iron dome and which will not. No country whether you agree with the politics of the complicated Middle East or not, or even if you absurdly disagree with Israel’s very right to exist, should have to live under the threat of indiscriminate rocket attack and barrage of suicide bombers against its private citizens who are after all human beings just like everyone else on the planet.
It has been tough in the diaspora as well, because we really feel for our brethren in Israel, feeling helpless, understanding their hurt, fear and sadness. My mother emailed me that for the very first time since World War 2 did she hear the piercing sirens of a red alert bomb attack. As a 7 year old child she would have to run the streets of Bratislava Czechoslovakia dodging bombs and bullets and sirens. She, her siblings and parents survived because my late grandfather, Yosef Felberbaum, was a paper merchant and was able to procure false Aryan papers. Seventy years later she said, that again, she had to run to her apartment’s bomb shelter in the cellars of her building as the piercing red alert siren sounded all over Jerusalem. My mother had her book of Tehilim (psalms) and felt quite safe.
It also hurts in the diaspora to have to watch the rise of anti Israel sentiment and the hurtful demonstrations and biased media attacks against Israel. It becomes tiring and debilitating to continually have to stand up for the obvious and advocate in the defense of Israel, which just seems so obvious. .
This week it hurt all the more with the terrible findings of the revenge murder of the Arab boy Mohamed abu Kheider. Golda Meir once said that “we fear the Arabs not because they attack us but that we are forced to attack and kill them”. But this murder of the Arab boy was shocking; this is not what Golda Meir meant. The implicit shock that Jewish boys will descend to the depths of depraved animalistic behavior in a brutal and violent manner, no different than our adversary’s, shocked us to our very core. It shocked us, to our embarrassing shame, leaving us with no moral high ground, the equivalent of our adversary’s. I know the excuse, that they were troubled teenagers with personal and social issues but it still beggars the response how did they slip through the safety net, where were their family, friends, teachers and Rabbi’s. There is nothing left, but to condemn their terrible deed and thank God that Israel is a democratic country that will bring them to justice.
In Deuteronomy (Devarim 21: 1-9) we read the law of the Egala Arufa. The Egla Arufa procedure is required when the body of a murder victim is discovered – The closest Jewish town is notified and the rabbinical leaders perform the ceremony of Egla Arufa which seeks atonement for the crime that has taken place so close to their jurisdiction. The underlying message of the Torah in this passage is that the leaders of the city must take responsibility for what has occurred. The Talmud explains that the rabbinical leadership meet at the scene of the crime and seek atonement for themselves not just from the victim but from the perpetrator. The rabbi’s are required to atone because as leaders they pervaded over the descent of their very own society. They obscurely endorsed the breakdown of social justice, education and the basic moral fabric of their own town. When a murder occurs in your jurisdiction, it is not just the perpetrator who is to blame; it is all of society that is to blame. It is not just the individual who is to blame; all of us are to blame. Deuteronomy squarely lays the blame at the feet of the Rabbis and the community.
Sadly Israel today lacks the soul and the spirit of the Talmud. Rabbinic leadership has failed to bridge the divide of secular and religious. It leaves Israel with a vacuum of values. The chief Rabbinate has failed to inspire our current generation or to introduce them to the richness of Torah and the Talmud and to its vast sea of knowledge its cutting edge thought process its heart embracing analogies its provocative ideas could be the panacea for the void and vacuum found in secular society in Israel and for that matter the void and vacuum found in all of our modern democracies. Why should the secular miss out on the comfort of connecting to a deep and solid knowledge base and the reassurance of tradition? Why should the secular miss out on the music and literature of the Talmud and tradition. The Talmud is everyone’s birthright.
The position of Chief Rabbi in Israel has lost its spirituality. I could not compare them to my Rebbe, the late Lubavitcher Rebbe. The politicalisation of the chief rabbinate makes the position subject to the same politics, corruption and innuendos as any other political appointment. Israel does not need a separate Sephardi and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi without a voice; it needs a single voice for every individual Israeli citizen. It is time to speak out against the murder of an innocent boy.
l’chaim and see you in shule