Latest update: May 8th, 2013
The Orthodox Jewish wedding season commences each year after Lag B’Omer and again after Tisha B’Av. In the weeks prior to those dates we watch the mail for the wedding invitations we receive – and notice the ones we do not. Sometimes we receive invitations to weddings and cannot figure out why we were invited; other times we wonder why a friend or acquaintance has not invited us to a simcha.
Often, we are invited to two weddings scheduled for the same date. In Brooklyn, at least, time and again people go to more than one wedding on any given evening, thus disproving the old Yiddish adage that “one cannot dance at two chassunahs.”
Last year I had the privilege of representing the National Council of Young Israel at a meeting with President Bush. The invitation was issued to almost every major American Jewish organization. We met the president in a rather large room at the White House.
Contrary to what one might have expected given his negative portrayal in the media, Mr. Bush spoke to our group for over an hour in a clear and articulate manner. He expressed his views about how the 9/11 attacks had changed the world and America and, in a self-deprecating manner, discussed how he would be viewed by posterity.
Two weeks ago President Obama held a meeting with Jewish leaders at the White House. This time, supposedly due to space limitations that did not exist a year ago, Young Israel, the Zionist Organization of America, and other Jewish organizations were not invited to the meeting.
Initially, I thought the lack of an invitation to Young Israel and the ZOA was due to their strong opposition to the dismantling of settlements and to a two-state solution. But even when I realized that a number of Jewish organizations in agreement with the president’s Middle East policy were not being invited either, I still watched the mail and wondered why an invitation wasn’t arriving.
Then the meeting took place and I read some of the quotes of those who attended.
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said he told the president his organization’s members and congregations supported Mr. Obama’s “views on halting settlement building” and “a great majority of American Jews don’t support the settlement building.” He added that “not a single person [said Obama] was wrong on the substance.”
Jason Isaacson, Washington director for the American Jewish Committee, stated: “Nobody [emphasis added] spoke in favor of Judea and Samaria as rightful places of Jewish settlement.”
On reading those words, I was relieved I had not been invited to the meeting.
Two weeks ago we read the Torah portion of Masei. The commentators posit various reasons for the Torah’s listing all the places where the Jews camped during their 40 years in the desert. Repeatedly they note that but for the sin of the meraglim and the acceptance of their negative report about Eretz Yisrael, the Jews would not have wandered 40 years in the desert.
Masei is read each year just prior to the start of the Nine Days. As I listened to the Torah reading I realized that there was a link between the 40 years the Jews spent in the desert, the sin of the meraglim – the precursor of all of the disasters that were to take place throughout Jewish history on the ninth day of Av – and the meeting with President Obama.
As I read the press releases about the meeting, I wondered how a roomful of Jewish leaders could remain silent while they were told Jews have no right to reside in Yehuda and Shomron; how “nobody” could have spoken out in favor of the Jewish people living in their homeland.
I found my answer in the story of the meraglim.
The meraglim were sent to scout out the conditions in Eretz Yisrael. Upon their return, they said the enemy was stronger than the Jewish nation and reported that this was a land that “ate its inhabitants” because they’d observed many funerals – failing to realize that the deaths were caused by God as a distraction to permit them to move about undetected by the inhabitants. After hearing such stark report, nobody – other than Calev and Yehoshua – spoke in favor of the Jewish nation’s God-given right to reside in all of Eretz Yisrael.
I then realized that perhaps I was not invited to the meeting because I would have been too intimidated to speak my mind sitting before the president of the United States. Could I assume for even a moment that I would speak up as did Calev and Yehoshua?
Rabbi Dovid Kviat in his sefer Sukkat Dovid ponders why Yaakov, Moshe and David Hamelech – great tzaddikim – had to flee their enemies, while for 40 years in the desert the Jews continuously sinned but were victorious against their foes. He answers that despite its many sins, the Jewish nation, considered as a whole, merits what no single individual merits regardless of his or her stature.
If only we took this to heart and reminded ourselves that we Jews outlasted Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Spain, Germany, Great Britain and the combined Arab nations and their terrorist proxies, we would feel secure in supporting a united Israel.
Perhaps only when a majority of Jews realize we are one people, with one land, who believe in one God, will we indeed be able to defeat all our enemies. Were that to occur, perhaps the Ninth of Av would become a celebration for which all Jews would be happy to open the invitation when it arrived in the mail.
About the Author: Shlomo Z. Mostofsky is a civil court judge in Brooklyn. He served as president of the National Council of Young Israel between 2000 and 2011.
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