The Test of Jewish Leadership

Published: Tuesday, February 10, 2004 2:19 PM

Rabbi Eliezer Waldman


Rabbi Eliezer Waldman is Dean of Yeshivat Nir, Kiryat Arba. For details regarding Rabbi Waldman's articles or upcoming visits to the USA, please contact ravwaldman

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In the past two weeks, the Israeli government severely failed two crucial tests of leadership. 


The suicide bombing of the crowded Israeli bus in a residential section in the heart of Jerusalem, like all other acts of Palestinian terror, was deliberately planned to murder innocent men, women and children. The ultimate goal of this terror is to bring the Israeli government to its knees, ready to yield its rights to Eretz Yisrael, and break the spirit of the Jewish People and their willingness to fight in defense of their nation and their homeland. 


The failure of the Israeli government to secure the lives of its citizens and the shameful lack of serious military response, which would serve both as a punishment and as a deterrent for further acts of terror, is inherently connected to the humiliating hostage exchange with the Hizbollah terror organization. The gang leader Nasrallah succeeded in shattering the backbone of Israeli endurance and weakening the stamina of resistance to their blackmail, by forcing an agreement to release more than four hundred convicted terrorists. This additional failure, G-d forbid,could lead to further heinous acts against the Jewish people, as in the past.


This past Shabbat we observed two distinctive Jewish dates. The weekly portion of B?Shalach relates the story of the miraculous deliverance of the Jewish People from the evil of Egyptian slavery. After G-d split the Red Sea and the Children of Israel began their trek towards independence, they were spiritually moved to express their emotional praise of the Almighty in Shirat Hayam. On Shabbat, we also celebrated the day of renewal and blossoming of plant life, which was designated as Tu B?Shvat. On this day, our generation celebrates its divine bond to the Land of Israel and the restoration of Jewish independent life by planting trees. The special act of planting a sapling into the holy soil of Eretz Yisrael produces a melodious sound of praise to the G-d of Israel. 


In fact, the act of planting trees in Eretz Yisrael is considered by our Sages as the performance of the mitzva of clinging to G-d. ?How can one cling to G-d? Just as He, the Almighty, partook in planting trees at the beginning of Creation, as it says: ?And the Lord G-d planted a Garden in Eden,? (Genesis 2:8) in the same manner, when entering the Land you should plant trees, as it says: ?And when you shall come into the Land, you shall plant trees.? (Leviticus 19:23)? (Midrash Raba: Leviticus) 


The religious ideal expressed herein has elevated the act of planting trees in Eretz Yisrael to the spiritual level of clinging to G-d. Just as the study of Torah and prayer coming from the heart brings us closer to the Almighty, the same is true with regards to planting or any other creative activity in the Holy Land. This is the spiritual message of Tu B?Shvat.


This past Shabbat, we were blessed with these two expressions of Jewish faith. Shirat Hayam engulfed the entire Jewish people in an outburst of song expressing their elation upon becoming a divine nation. This joyous emotional display of song blended with the feeling of spiritual fulfillment of participating in the process of renewal of Jewish life in Israel. This return of Jewish life to the Land of Israel is vividly illustrated by the Prophet Amos as the replanting of Jews in their land. ?I will return my people of Israel? and I will plant them upon their land and they will not be uprooted again from their land that I have given them, said the Lord thy G-d.?


How tragic and painful it is that our prime minister chose these days of song and rejoicing upon the blossoming of Jewish life in our homeland to reveal his cowardly plans of uprooting Jews from their homes and land in Gush Katif and the Shomron. 


I turn to you Prime Minister Ariel Sharon: After your many years of devotion and sacrifice in defense of the Zionist ideal, continuous building and establishment of new Jewish towns and cities - turning a desolated land into a Garden of Eden bursting with Jewish life of old and young - after all this, how can you turn your back on this magnificent phenomenon of the ?dry bones? coming back to life? All the more so, after you were blessed with the privilege of being one of the leaders in this divine process. How can you abandon your faith in this Zionist process? How can you yield to the tainted justice of a hypocritical world? How can you yield to those of our people who have lost their faith in the justice of the Zionist cause and the moral strength of our people? 


The most painful question, Mr. Prime Minister, is how can a proven warrior like you capitulate to the evil terror striking day and night and spilling the innocent blood of men, women and children? You know that uprooting the lives of the victims of this terror brings victory to our enemy and will only stimulate additional terror. 


Jewish leadership is a divine mission. Its continued success is determined only by the leader?s foresight and courage to persist on the same path without hesitation or change of direction.


Mr. Sharon, remember! All human plans and declarations are reversible. The only thing that is irreversible is the word of G-d, expressed by our Prophets, which has aroused and motivated the forces of Zionism that have created the phenomenon of Jewish national life in the Land of Israel. 


?...and I will plant them upon their land and they will not be uprooted again from their land that I have given them, said the Lord thy G-d?.

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