By Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater, National Secretary
Rabbi Elliot Dorff
Rabbi David Gordis
As the holiday season draws to a close, we are once again
celebrating the very thing that makes us a people: The Torah.
Simchat Torah is a joyous event which re-connects us to our
source reminding us that we are indeed a people of the Book. As
we round out the year's Torah readings, and read of Moses in the
closing moments of his life, we are drawn to the land of Israel
-- the land he was never to enter, but that we may, either to
visit or to live.
Israel is such an amazing place. For me, there is
nothing like walking in Israel, Tanach, Bible, in hand,
exploring the depth and breadth of the land. There is nothing
like a Shabbat sunset in Jerusalem, the holy silence of rest
settling over the city and all those open to her call. We
reconnect with our sacred roots, roots that gave birth to the
Torah itself, celebrate the amazing joy of 60 years of life for
the state of Israel, the joys of returning to our homeland. We
embody the words of the psalmist, who says, "eem eshchachaich
Yerushalayim, tishkach yimenee," "If I forget thee O Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither." (Psalm 137:5)
And yet with all the beauty, with all the joy, with all the
miraculous feelings of accomplishment, we know that all is not
right. We long for a Promised Land in which all is right, all is
peaceful -- but as with Moses, it is just beyond our grasp.
Recent years have shown that both Israelis and Palestinians
understand precisely what is necessary to achieve peace: a just,
two-state agreement in which the needs of all sides are
respected. It is understood by all the parties that there is no
military solution to this conflict, and still the violence
continues. In spite of decades of negotiations, the conflict
continues to fester.
Demography is not on our side, nor is time. Prime Minister
Sharon knew that; Prime Minister Olmert knows that and has said
as much recently -- too late for his understanding to bear
fruit. Soon a new American President will be chosen, and it
would be very easy to simply fear the worst, and presume that
even with new leadership, the dream will forever be out of
Yet, we are a people that is called rodef shalom, one
that seeks peace.
To that end, as new
leadership arises in both Israel and the United States, we must
continue to bring our side to the table, backing up our words
with concrete actions for peace. We must acknowledge Israel's
need to always defend itself, acknowledge the concerns regarding
Islamic extremism and the situation with Iran, but we must not
plan for failure or catastrophe. That is not our theology.
We are the people who sings of their God "oseh shalom
bimromav" -- One who makes peace in God's heights. We are called
to be lovers of peace and people of conscience, and we must
never allow anyone, or any nation, to drag us away from our core
values and beliefs.
The next American president, whoever he is, must commit to
working on this solution from day one. I am proud that nearly 700 clergy from around the country agree with
this idea and have recently signed an open letter to both candidates urging
immediate action, a letter sponsored by Brit Tzedek, of which I
proudly serve as National Secretary.
For no matter how much we, as Jews, may care about the other
crisis spots in the world, we know that for American Jews, our
relationship with the state of Israel is a bond that is at our
core of cores.
The Talmud teaches that "kol Yisrael aravim zeh la'zeh," "all
of Israel is responsible for one another." (Shevuot 59a) As we
celebrate today the very foundation of our faith and our people,
we must always remember that we are responsible for the Jewish
people around the world -- and none more so than those living in
Israel. If we would have them live in the true Promised Land,
one in which "love and justice flow like a mighty stream, and
peace and justice fill the earth," as the prophet Amos
proclaims, we must continue to work to advance the cause of
peace. Then our simha, our joy, and our Torah, will
Joshua Levine Grater is spiritual leader of
Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center in Pasadena, CA. He
serves as National Secretary of Brit Tzedek v’Shalom,
Corresponding Secretary and Social Action co-chair of the Board
of Rabbis of Southern California, and on the board of Jewish
World Watch. He has spent time living in Israel and has
traveled there many times.
Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance for Justice and
11 E. Adams Street, Suite 707
Phone: (312) 341-1205
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