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Parshas Nasso - Cease-Fire...Meant for Whom?      10 Sivan 5781

05/21/2021 11:05:23 AM


At this moment as I sit here typing out this message, a unilateral cease-fire is being implemented between Israel and Hamas. I am going to stay non-political and express my feelings as a Jew, albeit not an Israeli citizen. I believe that the Jews in Israel should determine their choices and not be shouted at by Jews – and politicians - living in the comfort of America. Perhaps the best advice I can give to American Jewry is similar advice I give parents/in-laws to their children: open your check books and be quiet.  So too, when it comes to Israel, we Jews in America need to open our wallets/check books and give generously without any strings attached.

There are many opinions about the latest cease-fire, whether good or bad, too early or too late, and, as an additional aside, if it is actually worth anything at all. It is interesting to note that the typical dictionary definition of a cease-fire reads as follows: A cease-fire is a temporary suspension of fighting, typically one during which peace talks take place; a truce. In the current situation I do not believe there will be any peace talks. This is most likely  no more than a cessation of the rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel. True and lasting peace talks can exist only when there are two legitimate sides vying and positioning for a better end, demonstrating at least overt tolerance towards each other’s values and needs. The only position our enemy, in this case Hamas,  holds is to annihilate us and rid us from all of Israel.

In my view, shared by the written opinion of quite a few others,  it is utterly shocking how much influence the media has over people. Propaganda worked throughout the years prior to and during the Holocaust; unfortunately, such hate-riddled, time-warped propaganda continues to play a major – and dangerous - role today. Our enemy during this recent conflict is Hamas, yet the people of the world openly, by and large, view this terrorist organization an equal to Israel with full rights to ‘reclaim their land’ – defined by them as all of Israel. It’s important to remind ourselves that the United States does not engage formally with Hamas, which it has labeled a terror organization. The United States must rely on countries such as Egypt and Qatar to wield influence on the group. I am not sure statistically throughout history how many cease-fires have succeeded or failed in attaining a full-fledged peace,  but we all know that this cease-fire is only temporary. The word “peace” when it comes to Hamas, is a relative term. Peace is achieved by two sides agreeing to a future of non-hostility, by recognizing publicly a need to respect the existence and differences of each other. Hamas, by agreeing to this cease-fire, is using it as  an opportunity for a time-out. The question is for how long. The animosity and hatred that is embedded in Hamas and their cohorts of terror against Israel  can only be defeated in the short term with Hashem’s help. The long-term solution resides within our own ability.

Chazal, in several places throughout their teachings, note that only when when Klal Yisrael is at peace with itself will Hashem provide sanctuary and peace for His people and their land. When our hearts are dedicated to Hashem (in a sincere fashion, not just lip service) then Hashem will protect us. From the words describing Yaakov and Eisav of hearing the voice of Yaakov or the hands of Eisav, we see the value that Hashem puts on peace, placing His own name on the line. I would like to suggest that the real cease-fire is not in the hands of the United States, the European Union or the Arab states; it lies within the reach of us, the Jewish people,  as I will explain.

In this week’s parshas Nasso the Torah relates in Bamidbar 5:23 the law of Sotah. The procedure is described as follows: "וכתב את האלות האלה הכהן בספר, ומחה אל מי המרים"  “The priest shall then write these curses on a parchment, and dissolve [the writing] in the bitter waters”. The Rabbis taught that it was necessary to dissolve or erase the name of God so that peace can be achieved and brought between the two parties who were at odds with each other, namely the husband and the wife. HaKadosh Baruch Hu, The Holy One Blessed be He, orders that a book or scroll should be written with sanctity - containing His holy name -  only to be erased and dissolved in the bitter waters. The Mahara”l, Rabbi Yehuda Loewy, explains the Torah (Hashem) permitted the erasure of His name because it was specifically through the act of erasing Hashem’s name from the scroll that peace was attained between a husband and his wife. When there is peace between a man and his wife then the Shechina (God’s presence) is among them and resides in their home. This comes because of erasing Hashem’s name. In no way does this act push away the Shechina. To the contrary, it brings the Shechina back. True, the ineffable four-letter name of Hashem may be erased, but it is only being replaced by another one of God’s names – the name ‘Shalom’. Therefore, it is not necessarily an erasure but rather a joining together of another name of Hashem, a description of Shalom, which now firmly links the couple together.  

In life we sometimes need to erase things that we feel are sacrosanct and cannot be erased or done away with. We feel strongly about certain principles and laws that we cannot forego under any circumstances. This is particularly true when it comes to our views of Jews of different stripes.  We must accept that there are different strokes for different folks. Each of us feel things must be done our way or the highway. Tolerance – the ability to acknowledge the opinions of others who do not agree with ours – is too often lacking in our Jewish world. Jewish people collectively must come to the realization that people, especially Jews, do not always agree on everything. It is equally important to understand that we do not have to always agree with each other; we must respect and demonstrate tolerance towards each other. We must develop and hold dear to a deep and abiding mutual respect despite our differences. This sincere and mutual respect must exist in order to achieve a true Shalom bein Adam LaChaveiro: a true peace between man and his fellow man.  

By giving in or giving up something that we feel we cannot give up because it is too holy,  stop and think again about where true holiness comes from and where it needs to go. Clearly, when there is dissension within the ranks of the Jewish people, the Shechina will not enter to be a part of us. Perhaps when we give up something that demands from the other, choosing instead to create tolerance, deepening harmony, and finally genuine respect, then the Shechina will easily join everyone together.

The cease-fire must begin within our own families and within our Shuls/Synagogues. Within the Orthodox community, a ‘cease-fire’ – a giving in to the other -  needs to be the lead example. Once we can accomplish such inner growth and overt tolerance and respect, then we will be able to bridge the gap to the non- orthodox and or non-observant segments of the Jewish people , displaying a cease-fire through genuine tolerance and open recognition that we are all brothers and sisters of one family. Through this cease-fire, we will achieve true peace and have the name of (God) - Shalom - in every Jewish home here and in Israel, reaching the level of Shalom Al Yisrael!

Sun, September 25 2022 29 Elul 5782