Seeing The Edge
Here is my new article:
I have just returned from a five week trip to the US. While there I dedicated half of my time to family and the rest of the time to lecturing about Israel and Aliyah and meeting with American Jews who want to take part in building the Jewish State -- the most important project of the Jewish people in two thousand years...
While my speeches hit their mark and the meetings went well, I had to contend with a constantly recurring question: "What's going to be with Israel's government? Are the people of Israel going to allow themselves to be led off the edge of a cliff, like lemmings?" This question came at me from every corridor and only then did I realize how hard it is for an American Jew to break out of the American Galut. From America, Israel seems like a crazy place of endemic instability, full of enemies from within and without. Add to that sentiment the amazing attraction of America, its convenience, its wide roads, its philo-Semitic tolerance, and its wealth and you end up with one thought: "There is no way in heck I'm leaving America for Israel."
I assured the people who asked me this question that as a Jew living in Israel and taking part in the building of our country daily, I am even more concerned by the policies of my government and am embarrassed by them. I told these questioners that it will take people like them and people like me to change our reality for the better and that we have no right to abdicate our responsibility to Israel in these hard times. I told them that we did not wait two thousand years to watch a reborn Israel go down the tubes, G-d forbid.
But there was another point that I had to make: I explained to American Jews that they are locked in a media loop in which their only information about our beloved homeland comes from reading the papers or watching the news. The media is notoriously negative, not just against Israel, but in general. I asked American audiences to relate the last time they saw something positive about America in the press? They could not recall the last time.
I continued: I, too, see and hear the painful dark headlines in Israel. However, when I walk past the Jewish kindergartens in Israel I see them full of kids, when I drive into Jerusalem I marvel at its grandeur, when I walk into the general store I see it packed with Israeli products and fresh food! My image of Israel is fundamentally different because I am not enslaved by the media's negative proclivities, nor do I think that my government's suicidal policies are the end all/be all of what Israel is really all about. I can see the bigger picture and I will not allow the media and others to minimize and trivialise our efforts.
When Balak king of Moab wanted to fight the Jews he called in the evil prophet Bilaam to curse the Jews and thereby weaken them. We read in Numbers 23:13
"Then Balak said to him [Bilaam], 'Please come with me to another place from where you may see them, only their edge you will see and you will not see the whole of them; and curse them for me from there.'"
What is going on here? If I were to curse a nation I would want to see the whole bunch of them splayed out in front of me and then let 'em all have it! Why does Balak offer Bilaam a tiny glimpse of the nation in an attempt to help the evil prophet issue forth a diabolical curse? Shouldn't it be the opposite?
The evil ones on this Earth have a well developed sense of cunning and these two bad guys were no exception. They knew the secret of the Jewish people: the united totality of the Jewish people is unbeatable and the big picture of Jewish history is the revelation of G-d's providence and kindness. However, if you focus in at the small picture you may find some dirt, some criminality, some all-too-human weakness that will darken the image. That is why Balak offered Bilaam to see only the edge of the Jews -- if Bilaam could only zoom in on some negative aspect of the Jews and disregard the big picture, maybe then he could muster the venom needed to curse G-d's people.
That type of zoom-in to the darker side of today's Israel is exactly what our enemies want. They want us demoralized, they want us to turn away from Israel. However, we, lovers of Israel, cannot allow ourselves to be minimalist observers who become dissuaded when we hear that our country is going "off the derech" -- off the right path. On the whole, the Jewish project of rebuilding our homeland is moving forward at lightning speed. Israel is soon going to be the home for the majority of the world's Jews, and is already far and away the cultural center of Judaism. All of our enemies and even our sick government cannot derail the forward momentum of this project -- unless we let them!
So let us not fall victim to our enemies' dark desires to see the edge of the Jewish people with a focus on negativity. Instead, let us see the grand vision of Israel and the nearer-then-ever horizon of destiny. Once we get our vision in order we will have a renewed burst of energy to help Israel get through this tumultuous time. And that will be our great merit.