The Price We Pay
“Seeing Israel thrive… is close to miraculous,” President Joe Biden once said during a trip to Israel. He was almost right. But the success of the modern State of Israel in spite of every single threat and obstacle it has faced and continues to face, is not close to miraculous, it is miraculous. We all know Who makes miracles happen but somehow we find it so hard to give credit where credit is due. Because when we know, we owe! So, instead, we pat ourselves on the shoulder and conveniently convince ourselves that our own ingenuity and persistence are the reasons we succeed.
This somewhat faulty mindset is common for nations and individuals. But the State of Israel is not like any other country nor are the Jewish people like anyone else. We know because we can see it with our own eyes and also G-d told us in the Torah: “…You shall be to Me a treasure out of all peoples….” (Exodus 19:5)
But if for some ignorant or arrogant blindness, we don’t take G-d at His word, then look at the facts on the ground. Jewish individuals have made significant contributions in various fields, including physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and economics. Relative to the number of Jews in the world, we have won a disproportionate amount of Nobel Prizes. There are approximately 2.6 billion Christians in the world today and 2 billion Muslims. As for Jews, there are only 16 million, which is 0.2% of the 8 billion worldwide population. Yet our voice is hardly muffled amidst the din. We are the tiny little David facing a schizophrenic Goliath, meaning one day the world loves us, most days they hate us. And yet, the Jew and Israel are still here, while the world’s great empires are now dust. If not for high school history we would never know they existed at all. (article continued below)
And yet as Mark Twain said: "All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?" Not Joe Biden!
Last year Biden said that Israel is a nation that will never dwell alone as long as there’s the United States. And yet that gracious tongue which offered such reassuring words of solidarity has yet to extend an invitation to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since he won the Israeli elections in November.
My friends, Israel and the Jewish people will never be alone because the G-d of Israel lives among us. If we let Him. Let me fill in the words which I replaced with ellipses in the Biblical quote above: “And now, if you obey Me and keep My covenant, you shall be to Me a treasure out of all peoples, for Mine is the entire earth.”
We must admit that in all our worldly affairs we believe one hand washes the other. We work at our relationships to squeeze out the best results for ourselves. Yet when it comes to our relationship with G-d, we are ready to collect with both hands and serve with neither. What right do we have to the Land of Israel altogether if not for the holy Torah? But the Torah is not just an eternal land deed, it is the holy word of Hashem teaching us how to live our lives, i.e., keeping Shabbat, observing kosher laws, giving charity, being honest in business, keeping your hands and eyes off of someone else’s wife, etc. If we behave, there will always be ONE to rely on: “I shall raise my eyes to the mountains, from where will my help come? My help is from the L-rd, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to falter; Your Guardian will not slumber.” (Psalms 121:1-3) (article continued below)
In this week’s Torah reading, we see how King Balak sought out Bilaam to curse the Jewish people. But Bilaam was unable to curse them. Why? Because the Jewish nation was behaving properly. “How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel.” The Israelites left no void or crevice for curses to sneak in like an open wound accommodating infection. They were impervious to any harm because they didn’t open the door to Satan by sinning. As such, those who cursed them would be cursed, and the haters would drown in the deep end of their own hate and envy. Can we ever forget the complaint of a frustrated Hamas member years ago who said, “Their G-d changes the paths of our rockets in mid-air.”
Kabbalists teach that each act we do creates an angel—either one that serves as our advocate or as our prosecutor, depending on our deed or misdeed. To make that teaching more accessible or palatable, know that physics proves that no energy is ever lost, it changes form. Actions are energy.
And so, the question is: What kind of army of angels (or energy) are you building for yourself and our nation, good ones or bad ones? Are you building spiritual Iron Domes by keeping the commandments and following the Torah? Are you empowering G-d to help you, to help us?
That Six Million Jews died should not have us questioning, "Where was G-d?" But rather should instigate self-reflection, "Where were we?" That a calamity of such epic proportions can happen altogether, that Jews and Israel are still uniquely the target of opprobrium when all other types of disenfranchised groups have earned unprecedented acceptance legally and otherwise, that anti-Semitism seems to be as durable as Mark Twain’s Jew, that Jews and Israel have gained miraculous success, should have us reckoning with the fact that the Jewish people have been singled out for greatness, and what G-d wants from us is not simple. "And if you treat Me as happenstance [with casualness doing as you please], and you do not wish to listen to Me, I will add seven punishments corresponding to your sins."
You see, my friends, the Torah is not like a warranty from which we can opt-out because we would rather not pay the price. The Torah is the Book of Life and is the Divine guarantee that we will pay the price if we do dare opt out! Shabbat Shalom.