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“Strengthening the Democratic Experiment”

10/12/2023 05:05:15 PM


“Strengthening the Democratic Experiment” Solidarity with Israel Shabbat Shemini Atzeret Shabbat October 6, 2023 Peter H. Grumbacher – Interim Rabbi Temple Beth El – Newark, Delaware ________________ This Shabbat is also Shemini Atzeret, the poor sibling of Simchat Torah. The Levitical description tells us that the first and last days of Succot are holy, Shemini Atzeret being this last day, Simchat Torah tomorrow eve and Sunday. On Succot the pilgrims came in droves to the Temple in Jerusalem to fulfill the sacrificial mitzvah. As a matter of fact, there were so many people that the Marriott wasn’t able to accommodate them all. All kidding aside, after a while there were actually delegations of pilgrims from the villages of Israel who were assigned to go; and while they were there from Rosh Hashanah on, it was on this day, Shemini Atzeret, that King Solomon sent them home. Just think of our fall festivals including the holydays as being cramped together as they are…all within a month…and until Passover there was no other holiday in between that saw such a gathering. Why? It’s obvious. The rainy season was beginning. The unpaved roads would have become impassable. Wait ‘til the Springtime but right now the time wasn’t good. We’ve got passable roads even in rainy weather so it’s hard for us to fully understand what the situation was for our ancestors. Another way of putting the dilemma…”Make hay while the sun shines,” and that’s what this moment in time is all about. We are joining with other congregations in making known our feelings about the scary attempt to uproot democracy in Israel. Some leaders would love to send home their Tel Aviv protesters, and surely they aren’t glad when American Jewry joins them in their protest. But join them we do. As I mentioned last Shabbat when I spoke about how the Succah imitates life, the song that captured the essence of Kohelet or Ecclesiastes’ message about the cycle of life is “Turn, Turn, Turn,” originally by Pete Seeger but known to me and the Baby Boomers as the song sung by the Byrds. “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.” So when January 6th happened, that was the season, the time for the purpose of overturning democracy? Of course, the song itself doesn’t refer to values; rather it refers to life and life’s chores, if you will… “a time to be born and a time to die….a time to plant and a time to collect what has been planted,” just for example. I hope I don’t have to tell you that we don’t find democracy in a melody. We find it, rather, in the heart and soul of a nation. It is in the motivation of its citizens to abide by justice and fair laws that give its people certain rights. But those who strive to eliminate democracy fight just as hard to keep those values at a great distance; and if their citizens never heard about them in the first place, all the better. “Send them home,” we hear from some of the ministers in Netanyahu’s cabinet, and from the Prime Minister himself. Democracy is, as they say, an experiment in government. Many have said that the miracle is how it has survived this long in the United States. The fear we had on that January 6th is that the experiment would be over, that we would join those who cursed the day democracy came to be. Those such as Putin and Kim Jong Un, and Xi Jinping kept a close eye on the happenings of January 6th . The collapse of our democratic rule would spell their gaining unimaginable strength, and their evil designs closer to creeping up to our shores. But so far democracy has prevailed. We had better do whatever we can to make certain the Bunsen burner stays lit under the experiment; better yet, the torch of liberty stays lit over our nation. But we’re not the only ones who see the dangers of democracy’s demise. While there is no Constitution in the State of Israel – a terrible omission – their Declaration of Independence states clearly that it will be a nation that will “ensure the complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants.” As I mentioned on Rosh Hashanah eve there have been major, tragic, shall we say, “differences of opinion” as to whether they have lived up to this promise, but today the focus is on the criminal intent to “reform” the judicial system of the Jewish State. The tens of thousands of Israelis who have protested weekly see the attempt as an effort to “turn, turn, turn” the executive branch of their government if not into a dictatorship, then a body that can manipulate the law because the anchor of that law, the judiciary, will have lost the power to have the final say. And those who support this socalled “reform” are also the ones chomping at the bit to change the very makeup of the Jewish State; they are striving to make Halacha – their Halacha, their law – the end-all and be-all of Israel’s legal fabric. But those tens of thousands aren’t giving up so easily…no, sir! They see what’s underneath this attempt. There’s a prime minister who would most likely go straight to jail if the Supreme Court would today put him on trial, but the “reform” could have his cronies have the last word, and the last word would not only keep him on the free side of the iron bars but would keep him in office. How these power-hungry people all over the world corrupt the democratic institutions for their own selfish, narcissistic sakes! You know the Torah is very specific when it came to the rule of kings, what they could have and do, and what they could not have, could not do. And to me yet another brilliant component of our Torah is found there as well. Every king had to have two copies of the Torah by his side always. Get this…one of those copies had to be hand-written by the king himself. Why? Never could he say “I didn’t know,” and if he did his people would point to the mitzvah he supposedly performed, that is the personal writing of the scroll, and tell him in the best Hebrew possible, “Baloney!” And the Torah he was to have by his side contained the law; that’s one of Torah’s definitions. This is our heritage. Tzedek, tzedek tirdof…”Justice, justice shall you pursue!” And to not have the justice of an objective court, in this case Israel’s Supreme Court, flies in the face of Jewish law and is a busha, a shandeh, an embarrassment. It is something Israel’s people are fighting to keep alive and we have to support them in their noble efforts. As the initiators of this project state, we might not be able to protest in Tel Aviv; we might not have been able to protest in front of the hotel in which Netanyahu stayed when he addressed the United Nations, but we were able to have this moment along with hundreds of other American congregations. Let’s just hope and pray that all our efforts produce the results we’d like to see.

Fri, February 23 2024 14 Adar I 5784