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Days of Heaven

Days of Heaven

Associate Editor

"Any dispute that is for the sake of Heaven (l’shaim Shamayim) will have a constructive outcome, but one that is not for the sake of Heaven will not have a constructive outcome" [Pirkei Avot 5:20].

There was a poll in which 47 percent of young Jews said the loss of Israel would not be a personal tragedy. But for those of us for whom the loss of Israel would be a personal tragedy, as well as a geo-political disaster (a personal disaster but not a theological disaster any more than were the centuries of Egyptian slavery, the centuries of exile, the Shoah the destruction of the Temples, or the Job-like misfortunes of the innocent), how could the magnitude of Israel’s troubles, existential threats and brink of war not get some of us riled up?

As someone who believes that our spiritual integrity as a people will have some say in the outcome of history, it’s important to always step back, cool off, and remember that if our disagreements are for the sake of Heaven then we ought to keep track of our friendships and sense of family with those with whom we disagree, especially with those who disagree with us the most.

In light of recent events, I’ve written more than a few critical items about the Jewish left lately, and have been exchanging some private e-mails with Tikkun’s editor, Rabbi Michael Lerner, who is very far left indeed. I disagree with Michael on just about everything except the day of the week. And yet, I know that he has a good Jewish soul, he’s a wonderful person to share a Shabbos table with, I enjoy hearing him sing Zemirot,and hearing about Michael’s good works and about his family, particularly his beloved son, a son that Michael allowed to join the Israeli army, several years ago.

I say "allowed" because of an Israeli legality meant tthat his son’s enlistment could not have have happened without Michael’s signed consent. He caught plenty of lightning from people on the far left because of it.

When Michael’s home was horribly vandalized several weeks ago, seemingly by political opponents lacking all decency, I thought of him on Shabbos and how for all of Michael’s unrelenting criticism of one Israeli government after another, most people don’t know that he bravely signed the consent allowing his son to become an Israeli soldier because Michael profoundly loves God, Israel and the Jewish people.

For all I disagree with him, all that certainly qualifies him as a member of the loyal opposition and someone who can be part of a conversation for the sake of Heaven..

Too many Jewish critics of Israel don’t qualify. American Fake Jews should have no part of the conversation — as Jews. They can as Americans but not as Jews. I’m a Russian as much as Fake Jews are Jewish. I love Russian literature and music, my grandparents were from Russia, but that doesn’t give me the right to give my special opinon on Chechnya as if I’m from Moscow, when I’m not, when there’s nothing Russian about my life. It would be a therapist’s delight if I, with nothing Russian about me, started an organization called "R Street" to tell Russians what to do by virtue of my Russian descent.

And American Fake Jews, the kind for whom Israel’s destruction would not be a personal tragedy, Jews who are only Jewish because of relatives, Jews who say that Israel embarasses them, Jews so removed that a private detective could tail them for six weeks and find no evidence of them being Jewish at all, it only seems peculiar and hardly serious for them to criticize Israel by virtue of their Jewish descent and disconnection. The stakes are too serious to indulge those who are simply flukes of anscestry, dabblers and dilettantes when the mood strikes and ducking for cover when the world condemns.

But serious Jews who are immersed and invested in Jewish life, Jews who take an active responsibility for Jewish survival and destiny, for better or worse, can and must talk about Israel for the sake of Heaven, anytime.

Despite our vast and considerable political — and theological — disagreements, all of them passionate, Michael called this morning to ask if he could reprint some of my personal e-mails and recent Route 17 blogs (basically what I told him by e-mail, most recently that authentic humanitarians should insist on freedom or at least treatment and visitations — according to the Geneva accords — for Gilad Shalit. There is no reason that the left and the right can’t agree on that, placing it higher up on the agenda).

Michael prefaced the Tikkun mailing with this gracious note to his readers, explaining that these opinions regarding Israel were from "Jonathan Mark, who, incidentally, is someone I love personally, has a great deal of integrity and intelligence and love of the Jewish people and Judaism and of humanity, even though I totally reject his political worldview. It remains important to me that I and we be able to affirm the humanity of others with whom we strongly disagree, and, as in the case of Jonathan Mark, [that when we] come upon a real mensch, a fully decent and good human being, that we recognize her/him even as we vigorously challenge his or her ideas. [In these postings] Jonathan is responding to a note I sent him in which I acknowledged that we should also continue to mention freeing Gilad Shalit, but in which I mentioned that that should be part of an exchange to free all Palestinian prisoners as well."

Hey, wait a second, what’s with the "her/him?"

More important, there’s a big difference between Shalit, a prisoner of war, a uniformed soldier who himself observed the rules of war, and non-uniformed terrorists who don’t observe any of the rules of war, and who after being released from Israeli prisons will rejoin terrorist cells and kill again. Several hundred Israelis have died at the hands of terrorists who were released from Israeli prisons.

Here’s something we agree on: That in a true peace (meaning everyone is acting peacefully or else the peace process is a total fraud), settlers, in their current communities, should be allowed to remain in Judea and Samaria as peaceful non-Arab citizens under the Palestinian flag, just as Arabs that are already living in Israel should be allowed to remain as peaceful non-Jewish citizens under the Israeli flag.

In peace, no one should be threatened with transfer — neither Arabs in Israel, nor Jews in the future Palestine.

May every one of our people’s agreements and disagreements always be for the sake of Heaven, may we be blessed to maintain our friendships, to remind ourselves about all the varied things in our lives about which we do agree and share pleasure, and may all of our articles, blogs and conversations about Israel, politics — and anything else — always be for the sake of Heaven, for a constructive outcome.

As Michael linked to Route 17, here’s are some links to Tikkun Daily, Lerner’s Network of Spiritual Progressives, and the current issue of Tikkun. Much — but not all — that you might find at the end of these links are things that I strongly disagree with, and as Michael said, "we must vigorously challenege" those ideas that — from my perspective — might threaten not only Israel but the United States, no less.

But since we’re talking "for the sake of Heaven," here’s a clip from Days of Heaven, a second clip here, and a very holy song by Tom Waits, sung by Johnny Cash. down there by the train, going slow.

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