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October 26, 2016 / 24 Tishri, 5777
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It’s My Opinion: Asleep On The Watch

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The alarm of a South Beach bank recently went off in the early morning hours. Police arriving at the scene were greeted by an unusual sight. The alleged lookout man was in the parking lot of the bank building. He had fallen asleep at the wheel of his car.


          Two men were in the bank. The trio was arrested. Obviously, the watchman had failed in his task.


          The idea of a watchman is an important concept in Judaism. The prophet Ezekiel spoke of appointing a tzofeh (watchman) who would blow a shofar and warn the people “when he would see the sword come upon the land.” Ezekiel’s efforts, however, were met with disdain. Even 2,500 years ago, the House of Israel did “not wish to hear.” Unfortunately, this precedent seems to be a reoccurring theme. The Jewish people really don’t want to hear bad news. Starting in ancient days and going to present times, this has been our pattern.


The Tanach is beset with stories of how the Jews of early days ignored those who tried to warn them. In modern times, Ze’ev Jabotinsky was spat on and Rabbi Meir Kahane vilified. The idea of “killing the messenger” (or his message) apparently never diminished as a way to deal with unpleasantness.


Today the Jewish people are experiencing extremely precarious times, not only in Israel, but throughout the entire world. People are frightened and frustrated. Anti-Semitism is rampant. Angry individuals often seek a scapegoat. Historically, that scapegoat has repeatedly been the Jews.


The Jewish world seems strangely silent. Where is the Jewish leadership? The job of the tzofeh stays in place, the people must be warned of danger. The obligation stands. The shofar must be sounded. We dare not be asleep on the watch.

Shelley Benveniste

About the Author: Shelley Benveniste is South Florida editor of The Jewish Press.

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