There is a tradition within Judaism that all actions in the world can be viewed through the lens of the Torah reading of the week. Based upon that premise, each of these columns are to help us understand the politics of the world through a biblical lens.
This past Tuesday, January 28, was an amazing day of potential for peace in the world as President Trump announced his “Peace to Prosperity” Vision plan for the Palestinian and Israeli people. For the first time, there is now a detailed and plausible pathway to achieve lasting peace in the region. This two-state solution is designed to protect Israel’s security; gives more concessions of land to the Palestinians than has ever been legitimately suggested; details a specific pathway for a simultaneously safe Israel and an economically secure Palestine; and respects the three traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and their holy sites in a way that is manageable and holy.
The fruit of three years of work by a dedicated team led by Jared Kushner and Avi Berkowitz, it is truly amazing!
It gives genuine hope for peace for all of us, and yet it is already being condemned by people who have not even studied the visionary plan… simply because of their vitriolic hatred of President Trump.
On Tuesday, I was at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles when the plan was released. It was an exciting moment for me as I studied the details. But when I shared my excitement with some of the volunteers at Cedars (all of whom were Jewish and do the holy job of helping patients, typically being kind and compassionate) their hatred of Trump made them immediately recoil in revulsion and try to argue that it was horrible. California in general, Los Angeles in particular, and Cedars Sinai specifically (being in the heart of the Westside of LA) is often intolerant of conservatives and filled with liberals and leftists. Since these liberals so greatly outnumber me, they likely assumed I would just keep my opinions to myself. But, inspired by the Torah reading of this week, I proudly expressed the values of this program for peace, and for the values I believe.
This week’s Torah portion includes the famous passage (Exodus 12:7) of the ancient Hebrews placing blood on the doorposts of their homes for the night of Passover. The Hebrews did this so that God would pass over their homes on the terrifying evening when the firstborn of Egypt would be killed in preparation for the upcoming exodus from Egypt. The blood was to be a mark so that God would know which homes to avoid. But on a certain level the entire concept makes no sense: obviously an omniscient deity would know which homes to avoid, so what was the real reason to place the blood on the doorposts?
Our sages teach that the real reason for the blood was that it was a positive action of self-declaration on the part of the Hebrews. By placing a visible marker on the outside of their homes, they were taking a stand. They were making it clear to all that they were rejecting Egypt in favor of God, and that they had faith in that God. Let us remember that the next morning, had there been no plague, each of the homes with blood on their doors would have been visited by Egyptian soldiers who would undoubtedly have persecuted each of those Hebrews who had placed the mark. The placing of the blood was a conscious statement of our ancestors. They chose to take the risk of expressing publicly their beliefs and values, no matter that they were outnumbered. It is an important lesson for all who believe that we need to stand up for what is right, even when there is great risk.
Ironically, this was one of the inspirations for the righteous behavior of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a hero to the left whose life we recently celebrated earlier this month. A pastor inspired by the ancient Hebrews’ courage on the eve of Passover, King said what he believed without regard to the potential consequences or the loud hatred of his many deterrents.
Our biblical patriarchs (Adam, Avraham, Jacob, Moses, and others) often use the Hebrew word “Hineni”, which means “Here I am!” It is a statement of clearly expressing ourselves and our beliefs through both words and actions; and a lesson for all of us. No matter the environment or situation, we are all compelled to express truth, and that lesson is as true for us as it was for Dr. King and for the ancient Hebrews on the eve of the first Passover.
The President’s vision for peace and prosperity in the Middle East is an amazing opportunity for the world. Although there are many who still believe the adage that the Palestinians will never fail to pass over a good opportunity for peace; this is the greatest chance that they have ever had for self-determination through a peaceful resolution. And it is the obligation of all sensible people to be proponents of this plan and espouse its virtues…even and especially around others who would deny it merely because it came from the Trump White House. (I have no doubt that if the same detailed plan had been proposed by President Obama, the left would be cheering him as a new messiah.)
As it was for the ancient Hebrews, it is time for each of us to stand up for our beliefs with words and actions, even if we live in a leftist/anti-Trump environment like California or New York. No longer should we defer to the loudness of the left or to their intolerance of others who disagree with them. No longer should we avoid standing for our beliefs in favor of quietly allowing others to loudly condemn the President or his plans. This plan for peace is something that we all need to support — vocally, courteously, and with passion. It is incumbent upon us all to stand up for our values, and for this opportunity for peace in our time. We must all stand up against the vitriolic hatred for our president, express what we know to be right and righteous, and say Hineni!
May this vision for peace and prosperity be achieved soon and with joy; may we all be inspired by the inner strength of people like Dr. King, our Patriarchs, and the ancient Hebrews; and may we all have the courage to act for what is right, no matter the loudness or numbers of the opposition. As a result, may we finally achieve peace for all.
Rabbi Michael Barclay is the Spiritual Leader of Temple Ner Simcha in Westlake Village, CA. (www.NerSimcha.org) and the author of “Sacred Relationships: Biblical Wisdom for Deepening Our Lives Together”. He can be reached directly at [email protected]. The complete White House plan can be viewed at http://nersimcha.org/the-white-house-plan/