By Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater, National Secretary

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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 reach.

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 be complete.  


Rabbi 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.  



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