Peace Within; Peace Without

by | Nov 2, 2006 | 0 comments

I recently returned from a trip to Israel. During the four days of my trip, I stood on Har Gilo studiously staring at Beit Jala wondering why anyone would want to shoot at me from what looked like one sleepy village to another.

I was frisked from head to toe to enter a wedding hall in Beit Shemesh so that I could officiate at my own nephew's wedding. I wondered why anyone would think that I, with my long black frock, beard and homburg hat would be carrying a bomb.

I visited a school in the Bukharian section of Jerusalem that I have been fascinated by, and was moved to tears as I tested the eight grades and learned how nine and ten year old children could know more about Torah than many people with Semicha (Rabbinical Ordination).

Before I left I went to pray at the grave of the Prophet Samuel. As I gazed at the spectacular views of all of Jerusalem to the South and felt the wonderful breeze against my face I understood how the great Samuel was inspired to hear the word of G-d. We drove 100 feet or so down the hill and suddenly I found myself at an Israeli checkpoint. Twenty or so Arabs were standing in line to be able to walk through two large piles of sandbags. The tension in the air was painful. The Israeli soldier with a machinegun in his hand decked out with bulletproof gear stared at each Arab for a long minute, visually scanning his face for any nervousness or abnormality.

While on the Arabs face was the question “What do they want from me? I just want to go home, the Israeli face was inscribed with uncertainty whether one of the twenty would blow up in his face. As I stood there for five or ten minutes I felt the entire Middle East crisis in my bones.

I'd like to share two observations that I think we must all learn from:

One – Faith. The average Israeli Jew: the man in the grocery store, the bus driver, the waitress in Center One, all seem to be imbued with faith in G-d to heroic proportions. Just ask any Israeli, outwardly religious or not, if he or she is scared. They will patiently explain that life and death are in the hands of Hashem and that every bullet has its address. We have so much to learn from them about faith and what it means to be a Jew!

Two – We can be our own worst enemy. This past week in Israel was all about arguments in the Knesset between the “Ultra Orthodox parties” and the Prime Minister. How can we argue at a time like this?

There is an episode in our history that I thought about a few weeks ago, that I spoke about in Beverly Hills two weeks ago at a wedding party and that I felt in Jerusalem this week.

Rabban Gamliel convened a committee in Yavneh to reconstruct the correct order and language of the Shmoneh Esrei (the Amida prayer). Shimon the cotton seller stood before Rabban Gamliel and recited the newly organized prayer. Rabban Gamliel was troubled. Something was missing. “Isn't there anyone here who knows how to create a prayer against the minim?” (Minim refers to the different groups of Jewish turncoats who often joined Sedducee and early Christian cults).

The house was quiet. Finally Shmuel HaKatan stood up. “I can do it.” he said, and composed the Velamalshinim prayer that we recite until today. Shmuel HaKatan was the humblest and most peace loving man in Yavneh. He was the one who said, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls.” (Pirkei Avos) He had the heart with no hate that was needed to compose a prayer against other Jews.

Astonishing! Rabban Gamliel wanted a prayer against Jews! What about a prayer against the Romans? What about a prayer against the Inquisitors or the Nazis? Why the Minim?

The answer is that Rabban Gamliel understood that G-d has a plan for the world. The Greeks, the Nazis, and the Palestinians are all somehow part of G-d’s plan. None of them can stop G-d from bringing the Geula (redemption). There is only one group that can stop the Geula. There is only one group that can change G-d's plan. The Jews! Velamalshinim Al thi Tikva- “And for the slanderers let there be no hope. That is why we recite this bracha right next to our prayer for Jerusalem and National redemption.

Like the Jews in Israel we must understand that everything that is happening today, in Israel, in Europe and in the USA, is all somehow part of G-d's plan. G-d has a plan. We must also understand that we can be our own worst enemy. It is at this time that we must all humble ourselves into unity. We must cooperate with each other and find the good in our neighbors. If we do ours – Hashem will do his, and there will be peace in Israel and peace on Earth.

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Rabbi Yaacov Haber has been a leading force in Jewish community and Jewish education for over forty years. He lived and taught in the United States, Australia and in Israel. He is presently the Rav of Kehillas Shivtei Yeshurun, a vibrant community in the center of Ramat Bet Shemesh, Israel, and serves as the Rabbinic guide to many of its wonderful organisations.


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