Leahs Blog August 18 2017 Parshat Re eh
Sometime in the early eighties I found myself somewhere outside of myself. I moved to a regular Public High School after our yeshiva high school closed down. Until then I basically felt the melting pot of living as a first generation American only in my neighborhood and in the culture of those rock n roll vrs. Disco (I loved both) times. But I hadn’t been afforded intimately mixing in to the great soup pot of America until that September when school began and I was just 16 years old. Gazing at the chalkboard, going to gym class, doing biology experiments or learning English Literature with kids from all walks of life and religions opened doors into a new hobby which I would later come to know as anthropology. Lots of my new friends and our teachers were Italians black and Irish but being that it was Brooklyn the majority were Jewish, the not observant kind. This afforded me a new and closer view into a whole new class of the then popular assimilated Jew, one that ate kosher style (not kosher), had Jewish terminologies for things in Yiddish slang (but did not understand Hebrew), but first and foremost – who had the direct desire to just blend in. There was lots of intermingling and later mixed marriages that came out of that. It was the classic Bridgette loves Bernie, our high school. As a teenager I obviously craved to fit in and found myself first walking to drama class rehearsals Friday night and from there things started to go downhill. Always at the back of my mind though was the image of my father’s siddur, wine stains on the pages of Kiddush and my mom’s smile at the Shabbat candles- “Remember – it’s Shabbos.”
We are nation separate and distinct. Is that a racist thing to say?
At best Jewish kids in this setting identified their Jewishness through the recent past, the holocaust which thankfully was preserved by the greater Jewish establishment . I too was a second generation holocaust survivor, actually an active one which had me going to hear my father lecture on it countless times. So surviving – yes, but moving forward and morphing into a proud strong identity, no. I mean as far as teaching about Israel being born and coming alive just prior to our own births and its significance to Jewish children like me. Something went wrong in the greater Jewish leadership too for not passing over the awesomeness of the present time and for a sweet future of nationalist identity to the Jewish kids of the eighties, an identity we did not have for two thousand years. How could this monumental event just skip over us? It was as foreign a concept as Judah the Maccabee- yeah, we heard of him but – what? It was like the closing of a door firmly in our faces, similar in a way to our brothers in Communist Russia but the flip side. They were told, “No! No! No!- you may not learn!” And we , well we just weren’t told we can’t learn- we just didn’t! We were happy to be the new Americans. Thankfully at home I got all I needed to know and read about Israel avidly. We were living in miraculous times and somewhere way beneath the surface of my variegated and colorful teenage life I knew there was more to it than just football, grades, parties and music. It took only a short “shpatzia” into that world to almost fall off of it. Questions of, “Who am I- what is my identity, who do I belong to, where do I belong came up sooner than later. It was a strange homesickness I had that I could not put into words! There had to be a larger sense of significance somewhere because in this arena I felt nothing meaningful.. Some- time later in my junior year of college I did what really was not the norm at that time and nothing was really stopping me. That’s when I went to Israel.
If you said “Israel” to people they kind of would draw a blank.
Fast forward now thirty something years ahead and Israel is flourishing at out of bounds proportions at the same exact time the idea of a religious nationalist state of Jews is repulsed by most left wing organizations. Antifa will not tolerate Israeli flags at rallies. The now liberal (for the most part) Jews feel a sense of comfort in left wing views but fail to realize that Linda Sarsour, let’s get even closer to home- the Democratic Conventions in many states not to mention academic discussions all stand against them in their core identity. You cannot be Jewish and take a pro- Israel stand in a left wing liberal cause just like you can’t be a Jew and pray peacefully in a reform Temple in Charlottesville because a bunch of Nazis are singing Seig Hail across the street. But what is worse? One side that hates you because of just the fact that you are Jewish (regardless that you may be FAR from observant) or violent left wing liberals taking down statues ISIS style and not including you if you pledge allegiance to the Israeli flag? When did the meaningful piece of the puzzle of the complete Jewish identity of NATION LAND TORAH get thrown into the waste baskets of Berkley Boston and Penn State and then deteriorate there I wonder. When did they smolder into complete self – hate? Jews feel defeated shaken and hopeless for all other people as their own identities are erased. This is the golden calf this culture worships and national is not rational. Not for Jews. They have become their own worst anti-Semites.
If you say “Israel” to most Jews their eyes kind of glaze over. It’s too touchy a subject.
This Shabbat we read Parshat Re- eh. As the controller of my own personal fate (and Hashem being the Ultimate controller) I can say I am watching this Parsha literally from the bleachers. “This day you have become a nation.” The Torah is defining the place, the people, the time. It is the day the Jewish people return to the crux, Abraham’s priority. It is in this place of the Mountains of the Blessings and the Curses that Divine Revelation is first marvelously experienced and then miraculously experienced on a national level when Joshua brought a slave nation into complete freedom finally in their own Land. Here in this place, right at the core of the heart of the Land given to us by Hashem we claim the Divine domain. And from here we turn out to the world to be a light unto the nations. We have returned to the place of Parshat Re-eh. Intuition tells me you will see and know more as time moves ahead at an accelerated rate now. Instead of turning back and having someone else’s voice instead of your own, you will find a voice. The homesickness will have you open what might appear to be the forbidden door that has kept you away. Hashem, please help us! Help us help ourselves!
Leahs Blog August 18 2017 Parshat Re eh