Friday, September 16, 2011

Jewish State?

The longer I serve as a Rabbi the more apolitical I become. Perhaps it is to keep everyone happy. But, the Palestinian state is on the mind of many people these days. I attended an event at the RUSI think tank on security implications of a Palestinian state. I was sitting beside a very friendly polish journalist, who later asked the Israeli delegation: what is the definition of a Jewish state?” She whispered to me that she had asked this question before but had not received a satisfactory response. They attempted at various responses including the safe one: a place that Jews can feel safe from their terrible history. But, is that why we deserve a state? Perhaps. The commentators on this week’s Torah portion give another reason. I suggest that the more we endeavour to achieve this reason for deserving our own state, the more worthy we will become of our beautiful, precious and treasured home land. This week Torah opens with the Mitzvah of Bikkurim, first fruits. “And it will be, when you come into the land which the Lord, your God, gives you for an inheritance, and you possess it and settle in it, that you shall take of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you will bring from your land, which the Lord, your God, is giving you. And you shall put [them] into a basket and go to the place which the Lord, your God, will choose to have His Name dwell there.” The Sifri (midrash) writes: “Do this Mitzvah, as it is in its merit that you entered the land”. The more recent Malbim continues: “The Jews were only commanded to keep this mitzvah after settling in the land. But it was in the merit of their prior acceptance of it that helped get them in to the land.” What is so special about this Mitzvah? Giving the first fruit is a reminder that everything we have comes from G-d, the great kindnesses that G-d bestows each of us every day. We want to give something back to G-d. This is the mitzvah of Bikurim; first fruits. It is our recognition and thankfulness that makes it fitting for us to return to G-d the first and best of what He gave us. So let us thank G-d for the great miracle of our land that he has given us. The land that is unquestionably ours. Whatever the UN, USA, EU, or any others may think. The land about which the verse says: The eyes of Lord your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. May this New Year be a year of blessing and peace for our brothers and sisters in our holy land. Shabbat Shalom.

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