“Then the Eternal said to me: You have been skirting this hill country long enough; now turn north. And charge the people as follows: You will be passing through the territory of your kinsmen, the descendants of Esau, who live in Se-ir. Although they will be afraid of you, be very careful not to start a fight with them. For I will not give you of their land so much as a foot can tread on; I have given the hill country of Se-ir as a possession to Esau. What food you eat you shall obtain from them for money; even the water you drink you shall procure from them for money. Indeed, the Eternal your God has blessed you in all your undertakings.”
The news and pictures coming from Israel these days left many from us shocked. Again, violence and hate has risen and is challenging our dreams and hopes for Israel. Looking for an answer for my own questions, I found this short D’var Torah on our Torah Portion for this week written by my colleague Rabbi Fred Greene which I’d like to share with you:
“Those of us who are committed to a secure, prosperous Israel ache each day that the conflict with the Palestinians persists. Despite the anger we might feel toward the Palestinians, Deuteronomy 2:2–7 reminds us that God did indeed promise land to other nations in the region beside Israel. The Bible reminds us that despite our feelings, we must live according to our ethical and religious precepts.
While we stand in solidarity with Israel, we must resist the temptation to demonize the Palestinian people en masse because of the sins of their leaders and the terrorists who live among them. Reform Judaism has always maintained that the Palestinians are entitled to coexist side by side with Israel and has also challenged the efficacy of settlements in the West Bank.
Our focal passage illustrates God’s desire for integrity and peace among peoples. Israel was given a land to build and to make holy, but it is only to be considered so when God’s presence lies therein. Rabbi Jonathan Magonet argues, “It is God’s presence that ensures the holiness of the land, not any special nature of the land itself. Indeed, God cannot be present in the land, so to speak, when it is polluted by the actions of the nations that preceded Israel—or by those of Israel itself.” (“Covenant and Holiness: Help or Hindrance in Seeking a Reform Theology of the State of Israel” in Journal of Reform Zionism, vol. 1)
This parashah reminds us that no matter what the original boundaries of Eretz Yisrael were (and there were variations), Israel needed—needs—to be righteous and just; and her neighbours, despite their conflicts with Israel, were—are—entitled to their own land.
The beauty and challenge of Reform Zionism is to continue to build Eretz Yisrael–not necessarily its roads and highways as in yesteryear but its promise for peace and its democracy—in partnership with Israel’s citizens. It is our understanding of k’dushah that drives us to implement our conviction of hope for the City of Peace, Y’rushalayim.”
May this Shabbat may bring peace to Israel and its neighbours
Rabbi Adrian M Schell
(Painting: “The Children of Israel Crossing the Jordan” by Benjamin West, 1800)
Torah Reading for Shabbat Chazon/Devarim
Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22; Reading Deuteronomy1:1-25 ;
Plaut p.1161; Hertz p.736
Haftarah Isaiah 1:1-1:27; (Plaut 1180; Hertz p.750)
Tisha b’Av begins this coming Monday evening and ends on Tuesday evening (31.7. to 1.8.2017)
In our Torah portion:
* Moses begins his final words of instruction to the Children of Israel, focusing first on recounting their physical journey.
* Moses reviews the people’s reactions to the negative reports of the spies and the appointment of Joshua to succeed him.
* Moses recounts that all of the Israelite warriors who left Egypt died, as God had intended, and the people continued their wanderings and defeated their enemies.
* Moses reiterates that the Land of Israel was allocated to the Israelite tribes.