This book is about finding and connecting with G-d. As the prophet Jeremiah states (29:13), “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” This is my personal journey back to G-d and Judaism. It provides my life reflections, dreams, prayers, and hopes to strengthen my faith and trust in G-d by exploring a variety of the precious gems of Judaism and the Torah, reflecting on the diversity and strength of our people and culture, and longing for our nation and beautiful State of Israel and the completion of the final Redemption and bringing of the Mashiach. Please G-d, may it serve as inspiration for your journey as well.
Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “Not by Chariots or Horses.” As I watched through the window of the synagogue, the people practicing their boxing, I remembered when I was young and learning to fight. It took an enormous amount of training, hard work, and practice, and still at the end of the day, the realization always that we are but the foot soldiers for G-d. We must be the best prepared in every way that we can (“Never again!”); however, it is G-d who not only leads us, but also fights for us. In the Prophets (Joshua 6), we learn that Hashem literally brought down the walls of the great city of Jericho simply by having Joshua and the Israelites march around it, blow the Shofar, and yell a great shout. So too may G-d continue to fight for us against the enemies in our time and speedily complete the final redemption.
I sometimes get very scared when we don’t give Hashem the proper credit for our incredible accomplishments and military successes, but rather we talk about our own “self-reliance.” To a certain extent, the calls for self-reliance is understandable amidst broad-based anti-Semitism in the world, calls for Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, and near constant United Nations resolutions again us. Of course, in these circumstances and with our history of suffering persecution, pogroms, and Holocaust, we may look to insulate and protect ourselves from the world’s incessant and irrational hatred of Jews.
Most importantly though, we have to recognize that G-d is in charge. As a small people in a tiny (albeit marvelous) land, surrounded by enemies, we can never forget that remaining sovereign over Israel and defeating our enemies that rise up against us time and again is nothing but completely miraculous. Our enemies are 1,000 to 1 against us, and yet G-d makes them run from before us.
Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called “The Tragic Comedy of the ‘Anti-Zionist Synagogue‘.”Recently in the Forward, I read about this “synagogue,” Tzedek Chicago, that has the tragic distinction of being the first anti-Zionist synagogue in America. They claim that they are all about justice, as their name “Tzedek” supposedly implies, and as their website values states:
“…the creation of an ethnic Jewish nation state in historic Palestine resulted in an injustice against the Palestinian people, an injustice that continues to this day.”
However, the facts do not match the rhetoric. Anti-Zionism, regardless of the source is ultimately about Jew hatred.(Screenshot from @margoexplainsitall on Instagram reel at https://www.instagram.com/reel/CcBMN1bFfpU/)
The term Nakba, in relation to Israel, was actually was first used in August 1948 by Syrian Professor Constantin Zureiq not to condemn anything Israel did to the Palestinians, but rather is a call for the Arabs themselves whereby:
We must admit our mistakes…and recognize the extent of our responsibility for the disaster that is our lot.
The displacement of the Palestinians and their refugee problem is attributed not primarily to Israel, but rather to the mistakes that the Palestinians and Arabs made themselves! So, while, the Arabs and Palestinians have tried to make Israel into the aggressor and blame them for their troubles, the truth of the matter is that the Palestinians Nakba is to a great extent caused by their own religious intolerance, gross hatred of the Jews, including the desire for their genocide, and that this has led them down a true disastrous path of Middle East recklessness and extremely bad decision making, over and over again.
The goods news is that in more recent times, the Arab nations are thank G-d changing their hostile approach to Israel and instead moving to make peace. Not only Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1993), but in the last year with the Abraham Accords with both the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, as well as with Sudan and Morocco normalizing relations with Israel. Even this morning, I was amazed once again to read an editorial in the Wall Street Journal calling for Iraq to join the Abraham Accords too! Of course, the hope is that more and more Arab countries as well as the Palestinians will choose the path of peace and collaboration with Israel, as Ben-Gurion had originally held out to them in 1948 (it’s never too late). The prophetic vision of swords turning to ploughshares is perhaps today’s turning of the shedding of tears and assigning blame over a perceived Nakba into sitting down together on Sukkot for a nice piece (peace) of chocolate babka!
It’s not always the largest, strongest, fastest, and best financed that wins. Like with the story of David and Goliath or even one of my modern-day heroes, Rocky, the determination of the little guy can overcome the biggest and the best of them. The Taliban were patient and over twenty years continued to wage their struggle against us, but more than that they knew that our patience was limited and that eventually we would leave, and they took the long view and planned for the overthrow of the government and the return of their rule after we were gone. They waited us out and that can be an incredibly successful strategy!
Israel is the Jewish homeland and the Biblical Promised Land from G-d. What the Palestinians haven’t understood in all these years, since the State’s founding in 1948, is that no matter how long they try to wait us out, we have more determination than they have patience! The Jewish people will never give up our historical and legitimate rights to be a sovereign nation in our land, Israel. In the end, the Palestinians may be very patient, but we are the ones who are utterly determined: whether Ashkenazi or Mizrachi, Labor or Likud, Tel Avivian or Jerusalemite, one thing that we all fundamentally agree on is our sheer and utter determination as the Jewish people to survive and be a free nation in our land.
While Israel and the Jews are filled with paradoxes from our forefather Abraham to the modern State of Israel, we are a people who try to wear these paradoxes well. We relish our commonalties even as we are proud of our differences and uniqueness. We argue and fight with each to try to get to “the truth of the matter,” and we negotiate, compromise, threaten and cajole to that sometimes elusive end. Paradox is just another word for our survival against all odds and our determination to overcome the blind hate, anti-Semitism, and scapegoating of Jews throughout history. We Jews are individually broken, but together, we are a beautiful, paradoxical mosaic—a little meshuggah (crazy) and with an unfortunate dose of PTSD, but fundamentally good in intent and deed—working to fulfill our optimism, hope, and mission to usher in the universality of G-d in the world and of betterment for humankind.
Sure, we may not fully understand G-d’s decision on not letting Moshe into the land of Israel (or decisions that affect our lives today), still we can affirm our faith that G-d is a just and merciful Judge.
In the end, none of us are the level of Moshe Rabbeinu, and if G-d didn’t let him in, well who are we? This is a frightening thought to me. Yet at the same time, I believe that if we as the Jewish people collectively put our heartfelt yearnings and prayers together to be able to go and settle the land of Israel then perhaps G-d will answer us in the affirmative!
Over the course of our history, the Jewish people have grown from a passive and helpless people during 2,000 years of exile to become, once again, an assertive and strong nation in the Land of Israel as we once were in the days of Joshua, King David and the Maccabees.
In the end, we need to be as faithful as “Jacob” and as strong as “Israel.” As we learn in the Torah and from the rest of Jewish history: inside every Jacob, who just wants to serve G-d in peace as the “People of the Book,” there is also a determined, strong, and brave Israelite fighter and innovator who can stand up for his people and his faith.