I wanted, on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah to write on matters affecting New London; our wonderful Slichot evening – scheduled for Sunday evening – and the Rosh Hashanah festivities of the coming week. But Israel has broken in, as it has a habit of doing.
Today there will, or won’t be, a vote at the UN on recognising a Palestinian State and diplomatic tanks are being lined up less, it seems, to debate the issue and more to disparage and blame one side or the other. I re-read the sermon I gave on Israel last year on Rosh Hashanah. Sadly not so much has changed. We are, I believe, still tremendously un-easy reading, listening and certainly speaking about Israel. The maps, sticking points and energies remain simmering a year on. That said, I do still believe in what I shared from the Bimah on Rosh Hashanah a year ago. I believe it, not only for Israel and her Palestinian neighbours, but for all of us who, a year later, find ourselves facing the very same maps, sticking points and energies that drew our attention a year ago in our interpersonal relationships. What is good for Israel is good for all of us.
There are, I believe, three necessary pre-Rosh Hashanah responses to Israel, then as now.
Firstly, we may not despair, we are, particularly around this sacred time in the Jewish calendar, compelled to believe that change and healing – even if only partial healing - are possible.
Secondly, we must be prepared to admit fault. Too much blame blinds. The posturing that insists it is always someone else’s fault is anathema to this time of year.
Thirdly, we have to acknowledge the religious value, and necessity, of compromise. The Talmud counsels on how to divide a contested piece of cloth and explains who gets to go first over a narrow pass. ‘Compromise,’ states the Talmud in Sanhedrin 5a, ‘is better than a legal judgement.’
There is a terrible history, appalling acts of violence and destruction and one can so easily be drawn into a never-ending cycle of recrimination and accusation. But the path to peace is not this way. Let me end with a text I received this week in a package of material for Rabbis who wish to speak on Israel over the High Holydays edited, distributed and prepared by Israel’s foreign ministry.
Rabbi Eliezer said (Leviticus 19) “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”—therefore do not say: since I have been humiliated, let my neighbour also be humiliated! Know it is the image of God you would disfigure!
Genesis Rabbah 24:7
My sermon from last year is at
The Israel Foreign Ministry resource guide is available via the website of Israel’s Embassy to the United States
Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tovah,