Wise voices on Middle East politics and on Torah
September 20, 2011
If the Days of Awe didn't begin next week, I'd like to think that I would be taking the time to write something substantive and meaningful about what's happening in the Middle East right now. Instead, I'm offering links to a few essays I've found useful of late.
On the recent attack on the Israeli Embassy in Cairo: Encountering Peace: The View from Cairo by Gershom Baskin. ("What's needed is stronger bridges, not higher walls.") Baskin writes:
All of the Egyptians that I have spoken with condemned the attack against the Israeli embassy. The story on the street and among the youth leaders of the revolution is that the leaders of the mobs that torched the Ministry of Interior, the headquarters of the el-Ghad party and the Israeli embassy have been identified as members of the hated former internal security forces. They say that these people are actively working to undermine the revolution and to show that post-Mubarak Egypt is a lawless society where all security has broken down. They hope to hijack the revolution and to bring back the old regime.
On Israeli settlers and the so-called "price tag" policy: Price tag -- a violation of Jewish values by Rabbi Barry Leff. ("Jews have been world's favorite scapegoats since 4th century, so they of all people should be sensitive to how terrible it is to make someone a scapegoat.") Rabbi Leff writes:
[T]he greatest sin the perpetrators of the price tag campaign commit is the sin of hillul Hashem, the desecration of God’s name. Attacking a mosque – a house of worship of the same God that we worship – and burning Korans that do reverence to many of the patriarchs, matriarchs and prophets in the Torah –makes Judaism look bad. It gives our religion, and by extension, our God and Torah, a horrible reputation. It makes Judaism appear immoral, insensitive and disrespectful toward others in the eyes of the nations.
I want also to lift up two posts which focus on last week's Torah portion -- which I think speak deeply, if indirectly, to current events in the Middle East as well.
My Father, the Wandering Aramean… by Rabbi Brant Rosen at Yedid Nefesh. His post looks at two different ways of interpreting a verse from Torah (אֲרַמִּי אֹבֵד אָבִי, usually translated as "My father was a wandering Aramean" but sometimes rendered in a very different way), and asks:
These two readings illuminate a critical question that inform our collective Jewish self-understanding to this very day. Centuries later, the question remains: with which narrative will we identify? The narrative in which we are the perpetual victim or the spiritual seeker? Does our story forever pit us against an eternal enemy – or does it ultimately celebrate our sacred purpose and the promise of blessing?
Milk and Honey by Rabbi Laura Duhan Kaplan at On Sophia Street. This essay offers me a blessing for the continuing journey. Reb Laura offers her own interpretive translation of part of this week's Torah portion ("When you come to a place of spiritual fulfillment, / an inner place that finally feels like “home,” / notice what ripens inside you...") and notes:
In Jewish thought, the journey of the Exodus is the paradigm for all spiritual journeys.
We move from the narrow place of slavery, to wander in the wilderness, and finally reach a land flowing with milk and honey... Some days, I feel I'm still in the narrow place.
My thanks are due to the authors of all of these essays, whose words have informed me and uplifted me this week.