Let’s Take Stock: Optimism, Pessimism, Realism? לעברית לחצו כאן
The High Holy Days are the time our tradition has set aside for us to take stock. Let’s see if we should be pessimistic about our situation, or if we can find a solid basis for a realistic optimism entering the new year.
Pessimists might point to some of the following: Our “friendly” Corona virus, with our bungled leadership, major economic and social ramifications, and no clear end in sight. Then we have our Bibi/anti-Bibi fraternal strife, with the danger of escalation of violence between police and demonstrators, the ever-present risk of political assassination and even potential disastrous civil war. If that wasn’t enough, we have global warming and our Climate Crisis, which frankly threatens all life on earth as we know it (see a separate sermon on this topic). Let’s not forget anti-Semitism in the USA (BLM), Europe, and the world-over: we have an increasingly anti-Israel, BDS-supporting, so-called “progressive” Democratic Party in the US, more and more anti-Israel Moslem politicians in positions of influence, while Jews, who tend to support progressive democrats, continue to assimilate and remain mostly unaffiliated. Finally, our “friends” in Iran have not given up their desire to go nuclear and wipe Israel off the face of the earth, while Hezbollah and Hamas seem ever-ready to launch rockets and missiles at us, with no peace talks at hand.
Yet all these points can be realistically countered. Corona is real, yet the overall death rate during the pandemic has actually dropped! We have reason to hope that despite the mistakes made so far, our leaders and people will improve in handling the situation, that the rate of spread will be curtailed, and that cures and vaccines will be developed in the foreseeable future. As for dangerous fraternal strife: while the risk is real, as our history shows, we see numerous examples of pro-social, altruistic contributions by individuals and NGO’s reflecting ahavat hinam (love for its own sake). Here at Bet Israel, I’m aware of the volunteer-teaching efforts of Rita, Natalie, Gene, Hadassah and Freda z”l, Alan Stein’s group fighting valiantly for us against slander of Israel in the mass media, Aida Miller’s ongoing work with Ethiopian Olim, Michael Ordman’s impressive, ongoing blog of the (Very) Good News from Israel, my brother Dani organizing volunteers to help refugees in Greece, my brother Liel’s activity to help avert climate catastrophe, and Shearim Netanya’s ongoing assistance to single parents, musicians, and many others. On Climate Change, despite setbacks like the Leviathan gas rig and Brazil decimating the Amazon rainforest, there are also positive signs. Public awareness of the crisis is increasing. More and more activists are applying non-violent direct action, bringing pressure to bear on leaders to change policies. Check out Extinction Rebellion and Megama Yeruka (talk to Liel), there is hope if we act! Anti-Semitism? It’s not pretty. Now they blame us for Corona. During the Black Plague in Europe, if Jews were less susceptible because of higher standards of cleanliness (hand-washing, kashrut), we were accused of instigating the plague upon the gentiles. Now that we are world leaders in rate of contagion, we are accused of spreading the virus! But we’ve had to deal with anti-Semitism for millennia, including the longest stretch while stateless in the Diaspora. We’ve survived before and we will survive now, too. Same goes for Iran and her proxies: We have the IDF, and things may change; look at UAE, even as we prepare our Mamad shelter.
So we live in “interesting times.” Let’s commit to carry on, and to do our best: Survive Corona, protect ourselves and support each other; do what we can to stem fraternal strife, call for unity and pledge non-violence; do all we can on the individual and community level to learn about, increase awareness of, and fight climate change (join XR, stop wasteful consumption, vote Green, more on the net); fight anti-Israel and anti-Semitic elements (talk to Alan); and steel ourselves for the ongoing challenge of maintaining our independence and strength while continuing the search for peace in our rough neighborhood here in the Middle East… It can be done, it must be done, so let’s go — and together let us make it the best year we can. Behatzlacha to us all, L’Shana Tova to you and your family.