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Vayetze 5783 ~ December 2, 2022

As our Torah reading opens for this Shabbat, we find Jacob making his way to Haran, to his ancestral home.  As the sun begins to set, Jacob comes upon a certain place that will be his resting place for the night.  He finds a stone to put under his head as a pillow and falls asleep. In a most beautiful moment of “REM,” Jacob has a dream with a vision of a ladder ascending towards the sky with angels ascending and descending. 

Within that awesome moment, God reveals Himself to Jacob and promises that the ground that he is lying upon will be assigned to him and to his offspring. Once again, the Ribbono Shel Olam, has made a commitment to one of the Patriarchs, that the Land of Canaan is promised to them and to us.  God continues that Jacob should not fear what may lie ahead in his journey and in his stay in Haran with family, since God will be there with him.  “Remember, I am with you: I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land.” (Genesis 28:15)

It is that reassurance of God to Jacob that retains our commitment as Jews to the land of Israel, no matter where we live. Its words provide us with a hope that despite the anti-Semitism that we are experiencing today, throughout the world, that God will watch over his people and protect us.  

During a recent visit with one of our congregants in the hospital, he became emotionally distraught over the fact that such a promise was not kept during the Shoah. Crying out, he asked me “where was the Ribono shel Haolam during the Holocaust?” And I know we all understand his cries, and even more so as Holocaust deniers are becoming more prevalent and are even welcomed into our nation’s former president’s home to dine.

The Times of Israel reported just yesterday on the controversial movie ‘Hebrews to Negroes: Wake up Black America’ “that Amazon’s CEO said Wednesday that the company has no intention of removing a virulently antisemitic film from its site despite it being at the center of a recent uptick in antisemitism.” “As a retailer of content to hundreds of millions of customers with a lot of different viewpoints, we have to allow access to those viewpoints, even if they are objectionable — objectionable and they differ from our particular viewpoints,” Andy Jassy said at a New York Times summit in Manhattan.”

We can only hope that while, sadly, anti-Semitism has been recently declared normative by one politician in a recent speech in Europe, that it will be checked by the responsible citizens, politicians and leaders of our society and world.

God also reminds Jacob, and the Jewish people today, that Eretz Yisrael will always be open for those who choose to return, not only as a safe haven, but also as a homeland. Today, more than ever, Israel has experienced a growth of that dream.

Yet as a non-Orthodox Jew, I and my colleagues are quite concerned by the recent developments in the seating of a new government in Israel under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu.  Our concern is based on the commitments and the appointments he has made into his cabinet in order to insure a strong coalition.  In specific, Netanyahu has appointed “one of the Knesset’s most far-right politicians,” Avi Moaz “who holds non-pluralist Jewish views and anti-LGBT, sexist, and anti-Arab positions, will be the next government’s head of “Jewish identity.”

The Israeli Daily newspaper Ha’aretz reports:

"Netanyahu's religious coalition partners want to erase the ‘grandchild clause’ from Israel's Law of Return and make non-Orthodox conversions ineligible for aliyah....The religious [sic] parties slated to join the next Israeli government want to restrict the number of people who are allowed to immigrate to Israel and obtain Israeli citizenship through the Law of Return. To achieve this goal, they propose cutting out two key groups that are currently eligible: grandchildren of Jews and non-Orthodox converts."

God made that promise to Jacob “that I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land.” (Genesis 28:15) That commitment may be in jeopardy for our children and grandchildren if Avi Moaz has his way. And while we are all committed to the Land and the State of Israel, we are also committed to the guarantee that God made in the Torah, to all of the Jewish people.

Shabbat shalom.

Rabbi K

Sat, April 1 2023 10 Nisan 5783