Congregation Etz Hayim at Hollis Hills Bayside

The consolidated communities of Hollis Hills Bayside Jewish Center and Marathon Jewish Community Center

Shabbat Mattot 5774

With apologies to The Clash, the question on my mind and on the minds of all who love Israel in times such as these is “Should I Give or Should I Go?”

As Diaspora Zionists, we struggle to find ways to express our support for our fellow Jews in Israel, millions of whom are under siege of indiscriminate rocket fire and terrorist designs. The classical American Jewish response is to give to campaigns such as the one you can find by clicking here. But after following the Facebook reports of so many friends and colleagues over the past two weeks, there’s a deep pull to be present in the eye of the storm, on a solidarity mission such as this one

The roots of the tension we feel can be found in this week’s Torah portion, Mattot. It’s here that we learn of the planning of the first voluntary Jewish Diaspora, as it were. The tribes of Reuven and Gad see greener pastures for their flocks on the East Bank of the Jordan Valley than might be found in the Promised Land. So they petition Moshe for the right to live apart from their tribal cousins. Moshe castigates them for what he thinks is another attempt to wiggle out of Israel’s covenantal destiny. The ensuing negotiations are a paradigm for the Israel-Diaspora relationship, in times of crisis and otherwise.

On Shabbat morning, we’ll explore the exchange between Moshe and the Diaspora-minded tribes and see what lessons can be applied to the ever-important relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jewry.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom, 

Rabbi David Wise