In this week’s Torah portion, the concept of the “Diaspora Jew” was born. What do I mean?
The tribes of Reuven and Gad, together with half of the tribe of Menasheh approached Moshe about settling east of the Jordan, but they all still committed to fighting with the other tribes in the conquest of the land. In other words, even though these 2½ tribes chose to live outside the borders of the Promised Land, they still felt involved. They still felt a part of what was going on inside the borders of Israel.
Not much has changed in the three millennia (or so) since.
We may not live in the land of Israel, but as individuals and as a community, we are heavily invested in the goings-on of that country nearly 6,000 miles away. I can say – with absolutely no hesitation – that my sermons on Israel generate more emotion than any other topic.
So, when the Prime Minister of Israel comes to visit the President of the United States, it’s still a big deal. It gives us the opportunity to debate and critique the current administration’s Middle East policy. Further, it gives us the opportunity to debate and critique Israel’s approach to the care and feeding of its relationship with the US. Needless to say, both sides had some work to do during this visit.
I don’t have to tell anyone that Israel has hit some rough waters in recent weeks. While it is easy to second-guess Israel and her decision-makers from the comfort of our American homes, we should instead follow the examples of the 2½ tribes in this week’s portion. They didn’t second-guess Moshe or the other 9½ tribes that wanted to settle in the Land of Canaan. They simply offered to help in any way they could.
We need not pick up weapons and fight as the 2½ tribes did, but we do have a number of options at our disposal. We can support the vigorous and profitable Israeli economy by buying Israeli products and investing in Israeli companies. We can advocate publicly for Israel both in the media and with our elected representatives. We can stay informed about what is going on there so that we are ready to refute inaccurate statements whenever we see them or hear them.
In so doing, we continue the long tradition of supporting Israel from outside her borders.