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Sermon from Friday Night, 7/21/17


This week’s Torah portion is the double portion of Matot-Masei, and it closes out the book of Numbers. In the portion of Matot, HaShem commands Moshe Rabbeinu to צרור אח המדיני, “harass the Midianites”. It was confirmed that the Midianites had been massing for attack against the Israelites, and the order was to attack first. Each of the tribes contributed about a thousand of their best warriors to form a sort of special forces.

This had been a recurrent theme over the last three books. After the Israelites left Egypt, the Amelakites were waiting for them. But rather than attack the masses, according to the Mishnah, they laid in wait until the mass of people passed them by, then attacked the rear. This was where a lot of the women and children were marching.

Earlier on in Numbers, we read about the Moabites. This was a loose confederation of tribes who saw the Two-and-a-half million Israelites preparing to enter the land and they got worried. They were afraid that the Israelites would attack and destroy them. It doesn’t seem that there was any reason for this fear, but they had seen them win battles before and became quite distressed anyway.

They engaged Balak as their king who then sent for Balaam the priest/sorcerer to go curse them. That didn’t work as HaShem had him pronounce curses. They settled on plan B which was to send their daughters in to seduce the men into depravity in celebration to their pagan gods.

Today, once again Israel is in turmoil. A few days ago, rogue Palestinian youths attacked and killed two Israeli Druze policemen guarding the Temple Mount. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, acting on security concerns, shut down the Temple Mount, which now houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The Palestinians became enraged. Today there were more attacks on Israelis. Palestinian youths broke into a settlement home and killed three Israelis and critically injured one more. They were “neutralized” by Israeli police.

Later this evening in Israel, clashes broke out near the Temple Mount. Three Palestinians are dead. It’s not clear, at this point, who is to blame or specifically what happened.

The point is that in 3500 years, not much has changed. We Jews want our ancestral holy land back. We have built it up over the last 60 years from a desert into a living, breathing, viable country. Israel has excelled in arts and sciences, with many medical technological innovations. And how does the rest of the world react?

Israel ceded land to the itinerant Arabs, who are now deemed “Palestinians” more than ten years in exchange for peace. Instead of peace, a terrorist group—Hamas—seized control of Gaza and turned into a staging area for attacks against Israel. This was not against the army, but against school children and civilians.

As they engaged in wanton violence against Israel, they spread over the world demeaning Israel and accusing them of “oppressing” them, forcing them into this violence as the only way to get their freedom. As much of the world sympathizes with them, their activities in their own land is ignored.

Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East where all religions are free to practice. In Gaza, you accept Islam or you die. In fact, Hamas has executed many people they believed were Israel sympathizers. They have used their children and women as shields against the onslaught of Israel reprisal after their unprovoked attacks. This is somewhat reminiscent of the commandment to “not have your children pass through Molech”, an ancient pagan practice that many believed was a euphemism for child sacrifice to appease a god.

Again, in 3500 years, not much has changed.

Israel has developed life-saving medical technologies that has been used to save even Palestinian lives. Where disaster strikes, Israel is one of the first countries to respond. Israel is responsible for many advancements, including the web site paradigm that I use.

Yet the world continues to condemn Israel. While the UN puts forth a resolution each month condemning Israel for one thing or another, other issues go largely ignored. No resolutions have been put forth condemning Middle Eastern countries for their suppression of woman’s rights, their oppression of gays and minorities. Nothing is said about the attacks on innocent civilians in Syria, refugees who, by the way, get treated is Israeli hospitals.

It makes one wonder if the ancient commandment to “harass the Midianites” should be revisited. Maybe that’s the only way peace will prevail in the area. Of course, the humanitarian implications are obvious and would further ignite an already inflammable situation. Or does it really matter.

As Israel stands alone in the Middle East, more and more countries and realizing the reality of the situation and coming to Israel’s defense. In fact, many countries, previously Israel’s enemies, are approaching them for help in fighting indigenous terrorist groups that are starting to sprout. So maybe things will improve.

So how do we handle it in the meantime? One might consider the old song, “you can’t please everyone, so you have to please yourself”. Or in Israel’s case, it may be more like “you can’t please anyone...”.


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