There were days when peace seemed so close we could taste it. And there are times like these when mere safety seems so far away that it is unimaginable. As a community, we have ridden a roller coaster of emotion and expectation.
In those months between the handshake on the White House lawn and the last days of civil conversation, there were those among us- some of you in this room, I imagine- who predicted there would never really be peace. We were impatient with you, called you pessimists and spoilers and bigots and things too horrible to repeat.
In these months between the hail of rocks from the Temple Mount and a pedestrian mall littered with human remains, there are those among us- some of you in this room, I am certain- who hold out the hope that we will find partners for peace. We are impatient with you, and call you PollyAnnas and delusional and ignorant and things too horrible to repeat.
But, except for the very few among our people whose fundamentalism denies G-d a role in human history, and except for the very few among our people whose fundamentalism denies people a role in G-d’s history, we remind ourselves every day that there is no such thing as a foregone conclusion about the Jewish People. The future may hold an abundance of blessings or, G-d forbid, an onslaught of curses. We- you and I and the hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters who heard the statement that went forth from Zion and the words of our leaders from Jerusalem- we have the power to write the next chapters that will be recalled by our children and our children’s children.
But, Jack, you say. But, Rabbi Moline. What can I do? Here I am, living in comfort and relative security, thousands of miles from Israe-l. I am afraid to walk the streets of the Holy City. I am afraid to send my child to tour or to study. My means are limited and my influence small. What can I do other than wring my hands and tremble each time I listen to the news?
In a minute, Doug Bloomfield [ed: a nationally published columnist based in the DC Metropolitan area] is going to give you some very practical, very necessary suggestions. Some of them will be familiar, some will seem obvious, many of them will impress you as trying to empty the ocean with a teacup. My job is to remind you of three simple teachings with which you can save lives.
The first is from the Hagada. You will it read it Wednesday night and it will have new meaning for you in these times, when Israe-l seems enslaved by the tyranny of terror. “In each generation, each individual must imagine that he or she personally came out of Egypt.” Even those of us who were not present at the Exodus must imagine ourselves at the very center of the story of Jewish history. And, so in every community, each individual must imagine that he or she personally is responsible for the well-being of the Jewish State. You, in this room are at the very center of Jewish history. And, as surely as your telling of the story of the Exodus keeps our history alive, the actions you will take on behalf of Israe-l will keep Israe-l alive.
The second lesson is from the Talmud, from the tractate Avot, to be specific. “The day is short and the work is plentiful. The workers are sluggish, but the reward is abundant. And the Master of the house urges us to go on.” The labor metaphor is not about earning a living, it is about making this world the kind of place that best reflects the hopes and dreams that are reflected in our covenant with G-d. I do not pretend to know how long it will take or even exactly what the finished product will look like. But, I do know that from the first step that our father and mother, Abraham and Sara, took, part of that plan was a homeland for our people in the land of Israe-l. Lo alecha hamlacha ligmor, v’lo ata ben chorin l’hibateil mimena-
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It is not up to you to finish the work, but you are never free to stop trying. The efforts you make in the capital of the United States are as essential as the efforts of our sons and daughters in the uniforms of the IDF.