As We Dwell in our Sukkot

From this month’s “Chronicle”….

There are two common explanations as to the origin of the Sukkah:  (1) The Sukkah represents the structures in which the Israelites lived during the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness; and (2) it represents the structures which the Israelites built for the harvest in the Land of Israel after the conquest.

These two explanations represent two different perspectives from our people’s history: (1) those individuals who never experienced the Land of Israel; and (2) those who lived in Israel and worked the land.

Within the Jewish community today, there are those who live in the Land of Israel experiencing the joys as well as the stresses and fears.  Then, there are those who do not live in the Land of Israel.  We may have visited.  We may love Israel.  However, we do not have the same experiences.  We do not have the same stake.  Thus, we do not have an equal voice in decision making.

It is very easy for us to sit here across the ocean and second-guess the leadership of Israel.  It is equivalent to second-guessing the play-calling of the Jets or Giants on a Monday morning after watching the game and the highlight shows from the comfort of your living room.  It might make us feel a little better.  It might make us seem knowledgeable.  But it doesn’t change the score of the game.

As an American Jew, though, I pray that I will never know what it is like to spend a night in a bomb shelter with my children.  I pray that I never have to see battle as a soldier — or worse, watch my child go off to war.  Yet, most Israelis have had those experiences.  How can we judge their actions, when we don’t have to live with the repercussions?

Our role as diaspora Jews should be to support Israel. Period.

As diaspora Jews, though, we can take on a second – nearly as important – role.  Many people in the world today have the same view of Israel as our ancestors who left the Land of Egypt.  It was a dream destination.  It was the ideal.  Yet, they would never step foot there.  Critics of Israel in the media and in the political arena seem to hold Israel up to a different set of standards because of the land’s central role in the formation of three major western religions.  It has some sort of mythic status.

Now, I cannot argue that Israel has always acted morally in her dealings with the Palestinians.  However, as former Prime Minister Ehud Barak once said, “This is the Middle East not the Midwest.”  Israel has often been forced to respond to the actions of the hostile dictatorships which surround it.  Israel has – unfortunately – learned to play the game the way it is played in the Middle East.  In fact they have become very good at it.  So much so, that some observers now believe that Israel’s strength is its greatest weakness in the battle being fought on the airwaves, on the internet and on the printing presses.

As supporters of Israel, as people who can see Israel clearly as a country struggling to make peace with her neighbors, we must share with others those things that cause us to love Israel.  We can do this by writing letters to newspapers, sending e-mails to networks or reaching out to our representatives in Washington.  Our public declarations are not only helpful to Israel; they are a powerful message to the entire world.  Through such public reminders and declarations of support, perhaps the world will begin to see Israel in a way that it has never seen her before.

So, when we visit a Sukkah this year, let’s remember the Land of Israel from many years ago, but let’s also remember the State of Israel today.





About Rabbi Avi Friedman

I am the rabbi of Congregation Ohr Shalom - SJCC, a progressive Conservative and traditional congregation. I am also husband to Jodi as well as father to Gabi, Jonah, Jessica and Ilana. I have been a part of the Summit community since 2005.
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