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It was the 26th annual dinner for Bet El and the main ballroom was crowded with dignitaries, honorees, politicians, cantors, musicians, and a vast number of supporters. My dear friends Rickie and Dr. Morris Platt were the gracious hosts at our table. On the dais sat the beating heart of Bet El, Yaakov Katz – “Katzele” – tall, vivacious and white bearded.
Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, chief rabbi of Tel Aviv and former chief rabbi of Israel, delivered the keynote speech. With a nod to parsha Vayishlach, he noted that Esav’s children “yoshvei b’aaretz” – live on the earth.
Rabbi Lau explained that Esav’s children could smell and taste the earth and knew where to plant each crop, every fruit. They were “earthy,” perhaps earth-bound, like their ruddy ancestor. Yaakov’s children? Ironically, inevitably, they prosper best – as does their land – when, after long wanderings and exile, they return to their “place” in Israel.
Rabbi Lau asked whether any of the various occupiers of the Holy Land – Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Christians, Mamelukes, Turkish Ottomans, Brits – ever made the desert bloom there.
“But in only sixty years, look what the Jews have done in Israel. This land is not fruitful under the control of any other nation but it is very fruitful when Jews settle there.”
Rabbi Lau made us all laugh with his observation that Israel is so small, there’s no space to write the country’s name on a map. “Half the word ‘Israel’ is located in the Mediterranean.”
Despite Jews having been persecuted for millennia, he added, “we can never be destroyed.” But, he warned, “We have a problem. It is among ourselves. It is an inner problem.”
He recalled that on a diplomatic mission in 1987, he met with various American officials and asked them “not to push us.” That is when he learned an important lesson – namely, that when Jews are united, America will not push, but when Jews themselves cannot agree, when the Jews of the world are split, that’s when an opening exists that foreign powers will exploit – to Israel’s detriment.
Unfortunately, said Rabbi Lau, it seems we Jews routinely war among ourselves: “We know how to die together but not how to live together.”
Rabbi Lau then turned his attention to the massacre in Mumbai. He likened the Indian nanny Sandra Samuel’s rescue of two-year-old Moshe Holtzberg to Pharoah’s daughter saving another Moshe from a watery grave. This time, a righteous non-Jewish woman rescued Moshe from fire and bullets.
Rabbi Lau described Samuel’s action as “the light at the end of the tunnel” or rather as “the light in the middle of the tunnel,” by which he meant that her risking her life to save a Jewish baby is the kind of redemptive act from which Jews must learn.
“There is hope in mankind’s love and humanity,” he said, “and this gives me cause for optimism.”
Rabbi Lau hopes we Jews can learn from righteous non-Jews how to be good to ourselves. After all, Pharoah’s daughter, defying her father’s authority, adopted Moshe. In turn, Moshe learned from her. In a sense, and in her honor, our liberator, reared as a prince of Egypt, adopted the Jews as his own people.
About the Author: Dr. Phyllis Chesler is a professor emerita of psychology, a Middle East Forum fellow, and the author of fifteen books including “Women and Madness” (1972), “The New Anti-Semitism” (2003), and her latest, “An American Bride in Kabul” (2013). Her articles are archived at www.phyllis-chesler.com.
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Haym Solomon, overlooked hero of the Revolutionary War, was America’s “Funding Father.”
Latvia, July 4, 1941 they forced many Jews in the shul putting it on fire; everyone was burned alive
There’s blood on the reporters’ hands AND New Israel Fund for funding groups feeding lies to the UN
When words lose meaning, the world becomes an Orwellian dystopia; a veritable Tower of Babel
Israel, like the non-radical Islamic world. will be happy see the ISIS beheaded for once.
Kids shouldn’t have “uninstructed” Internet access, better to train them how to use it responsibly
What if years from now, IS were to control substantial territory? What world havoc would that wreak?
Rambam writes the verse’s double term refers to 2 messiahs: first King David; 2nd the final Mashiach
The Gaza flotilla has been rightfully and legally blocked by Israel’s Navy, with greetings from Bibi
The president described the attack as “an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random, but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress…”
“The only [candidate] that’s going to give real support to Israel is me,” said the 69-year-old Trump.
And whereas at the outset the plan was that Iran would have to surrender most of its centrifuges, it will now be able to retain several thousand.
Few of the volunteers were experienced sailors, (Greenfield had been in the Merchant Marine). Few were Zionists.
My good colleague Kay is wrong about the early demise of conspiracy theories and blood libels against the Jews.
“I am surprised those Zionists are not outside protesting,” says one woman.
“Miral” is a film that has garnered an inordinate amount of media attention. In interviews, the director, Julian Schnabel, defends his right to tell the Palestinian “narrative” for what he claims is the first time. He seems not to know that many others before him have specialized in this particular line of work.
Our beloved, miraculous Jewish state is under siege.
It was assumed that the ceaseless persecution of the Jews in exile would cease once we again had our own sovereign homeland, our own army, navy, and air force.
In 1947-1948 I lived in Boro Park where, against parental and rabbinic advice, I joined a Zionist group. By 1950 I was packing machine-gun parts for Israel in a home not far from the Young Israel. But what I did as a child does not compare to what my friend and colleague David Gutmann did for love of Zion at that very time on the dangerous open seas.
Reality has become somewhat Scandinavian. It grows dark early and it is bitterly cold here in New York City and over a good portion of our fair land. Our Prince of Peace (The Norwegian Nobel, not the noble variety) is not yet asking whether “to be or not to be.” Perhaps he is not entirely convinced that “that is the question.”
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/rabbi-laus-challenge-to-jews/2008/12/17/
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