For the week ending 5 June 2010 / 22 Sivan 5770

A Time To Speak

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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"The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things; of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings." (Through the Looking Glass)

How right was the author of "Alice in Wonderland" for this is certainly a time when the awesome walrus of world public opinion demands that we speak of these very things.

Shoes and Ships, Cabbages and Kings

I would not like to be in the shoes of the spokesman of Israel in explaining to the cabbages and kings who rule foreign countries and brazenly interfere in the affairs of a sovereign state defending itself against ships that threaten its security.

But is there anything really new in this current wave of Jew-bashing? Is this not merely a cheap re-run of the accusations about blood of gentile children for matza baking or the poisoning of wells? Is there a difference between the fictionalizing of elders of Zion plotting a world takeover and the character assassination of Israel's leaders as perpetrators of a "massacre"?

Sealing Wax

While the world clamors for an objective investigation of the Israeli action, and even Israelis wonder why there was a lack of intelligence regarding the danger facing the commando force boarding the ship, it is a time to speak of the sealing wax which binds Israel's problems in international relations with its own domestic behavior.

There is an old Yiddish saying about the tendency of Jews to imitate the ways of their gentile neighbors. While this conveyed the sad message that Jewish behavior reflects that of non-Jews, we suggest that the opposite is true as well. The way Jews relate to one another is the way non-Jews relate to us all!

The current wave of the Israeli media disparaging the Orthodox sector of Jewry and its politicians catering to the anti-religious electorate is now boomeranging against its perpetrators who are forced to use their communication skills to defend their country.

We might even extend this "sealing wax" connection to the wave of anti-Semitic acts of vandals and governments throughout the world. Is there not a relationship between the desecration of Jewish cemeteries in Europe and the manner in which graves are uprooted in Israel for archeological or construction purposes? Is the banning of shechita in Scandinavian countries and New Zealand a mirror of the local authorities’ ruthless interference in the educational policies of the Orthodox public?

At the conclusion of Psalm 62 in Tehillim King David praises G-d for the kindness of His retribution "to every man according to his deeds." In his commentary Rabbi David Kimchi (RADAK) explains that the reason why Divine retribution is the poetic justice of exact measure for measure is so that man can learn from his punishment that it is not the result of coincidence or natural causes but rather a Heavenly message to do some soul-searching and improvement.

What happened off the shores of Gaza was not a coincidence and cannot be traced only to terrorist subterfuge. Like everything else that happens this must be viewed from the perspective so eloquently expressed by Rambam (Laws of Fasting 1:2), who echoes the Torah warning that if we react to every tragedy as being the way of the world and merely a coincidence, we are cruelly causing ourselves to persist in our evil ways and invite further setbacks.

May the current crisis serve to awaken all of us to our responsibilities so that no further shocks will be needed and Jews in Israel and throughout the world can live in peace and security.

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