PEACE BY PIECES
Both this week's and last week's Torah portions are concerned with the creation of the Mishkan - the portable Tabernacle that the Jews carried with them in the desert. Then entire Mishkan episode leads me to ask a simple question. Why was the Mishkan needed? Chronologically, the Jews were supposed to enter the land of Israel very soon after the giving of the Torah. Theoretically, once there, couldn't they have built a Temple? Why did they need to build a Mishkan for the few months they were supposed to be in the desert? What was so important about it?
There are, of course, a variety of answers. Perhaps God knew the Jews would fail the test of the spies and would thus need a place to worship in the desert. Perhaps God knew that the Jewish people would not be completely conquered and under control until the reign of Solomon - and that the Jews would need a Temple until then. These answers both make sense. But what if the Jews had done everything right? What if they had quickly conquered and settled the land? Why, in that case, would they need a Mishkan?
A possible answer to that question lies in the giving of the Torah. The Torah was given in an awesome and incredible event at Mt. Sinai. But that wasn't enough. As many of our sages have noted, fantastic events are all well and good, but they wear off. They fade from memory and, very quickly, feel like yesterday's news. The Mishkan, a physical place where the Jews could worship God and feel his presence on a daily basis, was the antidote to human forgetfulness. The Mishkan reinforced, every day, the lessons at Mt. Sinai. This week's Torah portion begins with the description of the eternal light that was to hang in the Mishkan. This light was a continual reminder of God's holiness and of the light that the Jewish people are supposed to bring to the entire world. The Mishkan reinforced the lessons of Mt. Sinai - for that reason it was needed immediately - even if the Jews did everything right and built a Temple within the year.
In a strange twist of fate, the psychology behind the Mishkan is being used against the Jewish people even now. Today, we suffer continual attacks in the land of Israel. These are low level attacks, and constant reminders of our enemies' hatred and of our own vulnerability. With each of these attacks, and each symbolic response, the enemy wins a victory. We no longer feel safe in our land, and perhaps we will withdraw to seek greater comforts elsewhere.
This strategy is in sharp contrast to what is happening in the United States. There was a massive attack that was supposed to break the American spirit. Now, we were just supposed to be crawling out of the psychological hole created by that attack - only to be greeted by a regular onslaught of additional strikes. But this hasn't happened. Why? Because the U.S. responded to Sept 11 by determining to seek out and destroy terrorists wherever they reside, while preserving the rights of regular people around the world. The U.S. is using its armed forces for a defined end - a defined end that is directly contrary to what the terrorists were seeking. If you are a terrorist, why would you provoke the giant further? At this point, it is best for the terrorists to hope that Sept 11 fades from the consciousness of America and that the lion returns to its slumber.
What of Israel? In Israel everything is being done wrong. We are using our armed forces to seek peace. But peace is, despite what the news reports say, not contrary to what the terrorists want. The terrorists don't mind peace, as long as we aren't in the picture.
Israel should be mimicking what the U.S. is doing. Symbolic strikes reinforce the idea that the other side is in control. Instead of symbolic strikes, we should work through the terrorist organizations from top to bottom. Those terrorists that we find should be killed. Whether they are masterminds, or simply holding a rocket launcher or a rifle, they should be eliminated. Like the U.S., Israel should have zero tolerance for terror. Israel should work directly contrary to the wishes of the terrorists.
The terrorists’ wishes are to be the sole occupiers of the land of Israel. Our wish should be that they occupy no part of it. Once we have destroyed the terrorists, we must carry out our moral obligation in Israel. We must unilaterally grant the Palestinians a country of their own - a country which guarantees the right's of minorities including Christians and Jews to live and settle in peace.
However, we can not be forced into this position. If the terrorists, and not our own moral light, force concessions then those concessions will never end. We must be in control of our own actions. We must do our part by freeing the Palestinian people from their hateful and tyrannical leadership.
Since the second intifada started, Israel has lost ten times as many people per capita as America did on Sept 11.
Just like the Mishkan and the eternal light, the terrorist attacks must serve as a constant reminder of what we must do.
This Shabbat is called Shabbat Zachor. This portion reminds us of one of our eternal goals - to eliminate the nation of Amalek. It is about time we played our part.
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