Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Reflections from the Diaspora

I write this blog from New York City. I am visiting family here. Its hard to leave Eretz Yisrael. And while I prefer a Starbucks drip to an Israeli "hafuch", it is small comfort for having to leave the Holy Land and my people. And then it got worse.
I sat at dinner with some friends who were discussing the tensions between Israel and Iran over Iran's nuclear capabilities. One friend whose daughter is spending a semester at Tel Aviv University remarked, "If the situation ever reached the point where war was imminent my daughter would be on the first plane home!". And two others concurred, one saying she would not even consider visiting Israel at this time.

I was startled. I can remember when the Six Day War was about to break out, after the Gulf of Aquba had been blockaded by our Arab enemies, Jews by the plane load came to Israel to volunteer. So much of the workforce was called up to reserve duty and there was great need of additional manpower. At that time Israel was in extreme peril. It was not at all clear she would survive. Yet young and old came to be with her and their people even at risk to their very lives.They could not imagine being separated from the destiny of the Jewish State.

The people I had dinner with were not assimilated Jews. They were observant and active in the Jewish community. What happened to the idealism of the late 60's ?
How could practicing Jews today even imagine an individual existence apart from the survival of Israel and her people?

Troubled as I was by the table talk I went to the Torah portion of this week, that of T'ruma seeking some insight. And it came!

The Torah in the beginning of the portion tells us about the collection of voluntary offerrings to be used to build the Mishkan, the temporary House of G-d built by the Israelites in the wilderness. The Torah beging " Speak to the Children of Israel that they should take for me an offerring. From every man who is motivated to give you should take my offerring."

The Alshich raised a troubling question on the verse just quoted. He noted that the Torah called the offerring voluntary. It is to be given from those motivated to donate. Why then does the Torah instruct Moshe to "take" the offerring. If its voluntary it will be "given" not "taken"?

Many of the great commentators have explained the verses, each with his own brilliance. I would like to suggest an interpretation based on my experience this week in the 'Gola'. If one studies the verse we quoted above carefully one finds an
interesting idiom. The Torah in its literal translation reads "...from every man whose heart is motivated..." If I may be so bold I would suggest the verse may be interpreted "from every man who is willing to donate his heart you shall take the offferring".

What G-d then is instructing Moshe is to take material gifts to build the sanctuary only from those who are willing to surrender themselves for the purpose of having G-d's house in their midst. Its not enough to be generous of the purse. If you want to have your wealth part of the sanctuary of G-d you need to be devoted to the project.
No, more than devoted, you need to be willing to give your very heart to make the Mishkan a reality. Only those willing to be 'mosair nefesh', prepared to surrender their soul to make the Temple a reality were worthy of having that which they donate, their materials, part of the structure.

I suspect the same is true for our relationship with the State of Israel. Many donate money...even generous gifts that have been important for the Jewish State's survival. But unless one is willing to donate one's very heart as well as his/her money s/he has no real share in the reality that is Israel. Israel only belongs to those who would make an ultimate sacrifice for her continuity. It belongs to those who live their and sacrifice each day to build the land and defend her. It belongs to those in the diaspora who see their personal life and the life of the State inextricably linked and inseparable. Like the Mishkan, Israel belongs to those who would make for her a donation of their heart and soul.

One more Shabbat in the diaspora and then I am home again. Paraphrasing the great poet and philosopher Yehuda Ha'levy, "No matter where I am, my heart is in the East".
When all our hearts are in the East, bound to our beloved homeland, we will know the blessing G-d intends for us. May it be soon. May it be today!

Shabbat Shalom

No comments:

Post a Comment