Things are heating up with words of admonishments and threats of nuclear war coming from two egocentric and incompetent leaders. Some administration spokespersons are asking us to be calm in face of the growing insecurity reflected in the headlines. Can we trust these leaders to simply blow off at each other with words?
What can we do to stop this madness? For decades North Korea has feared the United States. This has forced them to build up their "arsenal" of self-defense. This is what they fear. And they have bitten back with their long-range missiles forcing us the feel insecure as well. We bully them and they bully us.
Jewish teachings generally support working out these issues with our enemies without violence. We are a people that have nearly been annihilated several times throughout history. In ancient times, we engaged in many wars. There is no simple answer to the fallibility of humanity, especially when wise and strong leadership is lacking.
On a recent conference call hosted by J Street, I heard more about the growing tensions and futility that both Israelis and Palestinians are experiencing. While there are still those on both sides who are working hard for solutions, the ones who are on the extremes of both societies are the ones being heard. The continued silence of the mainstream Jewish community is pitiful, likewise in the Palestinian camp.
Parsha Ekev this week offers little solutions. Moses continues to remind the people of the preeminence of the Covenant with God. To inspire faith through threats is not a great way to inspire love and respect. While "God" wants to wipe out falsehood, injustice and idolatry in the Land, many of us have a hard time accepting such a strategy. That's why the Hasidic masters teach us to work on wiping out the falsehoods and idolatrousness that we harbor in our own hearts. When someone (whether it be an individual, a leader or a nation) is up to no good, we must try to understand what causes such behavior and, if we can respond, we must do so.
From Pirkey Avot 1:3 we learn: "Be careful in your relations with the government; for they draw no one close to themselves except for their own interests. They appear as friends when it is to their advantage, but they do not stand by the people in their time of stress."
This coming Shabbat, and every day, let us pray for our leaders, our country and the world. And let us let our leaders know how we feel. In faith and concern, Reb David