This week I went for a very special occasion, with my wider family, for a few days to Scotland. We were checking in at Edinburgh airport at the end of our trip with a young family in front of us. I noticed a) they were Israeli and b) they seemed to be having trouble at the check-in desk.
It transpired that their bags were very overweight and they were going to be charged a significant amount of money. My wife, overhearing the problem realised that we had paid for two bags but as one of the bags had been all the food – we now had a spare duffel bag. Speaking in Ivrit to the other mum, we ended up checking in our second bag which was no longer full of food but full of the Israeli family’s stuff!
My younger son asked the obvious question during the episode – ‘Do we know them?’ I smiled as I answered him ‘They are family’. I then explained to him the beautiful idea that ‘Kol Yisrael Achim’ all Jews are brothers. Of course we swapped details and discovered that where we are staying in Yerushalayim this summer is two minutes from their house – so we are going to meet up for coffee!
However, this blissful idealism doesn’t always exist and we have witnessed in recent weeks the battle of Jew against Jew. We cannot automatically condemn infighting, as unfortunately, sometimes we do need to stand against our own people when there are real issues at hand. Pinchas showed that in a very violent way this week, his slaying of a Prince of Israel was definitely not falling in line with ‘Kol Yisrael Achim’, yet his decisive action stopped the plague, got praise from Hashem and he received the Brit Shalom – Covenant of Peace.
Remarkably though, as Rashi tells us (25:11) based on the Gemara in Sanhedrin, that despite all this ‘The tribes were disparaging him, saying, Have you seen the son of Puti, whose mother’s father [Jethro] fattened calves for idols, and who killed a chieftain of an Israelite tribe’. Sometimes we Jews just can’t see the need to stand up against falsehood and wrongdoings – even if committed by our own. However, we must think long and hard before we go down that road, which can cause untold damage and hurt and most importantly in this day and age – a chillul Hashem.
This week however our outrage is not against our own but once again against that pathetic anti-Semitic organisation UNESCO. First, it was no Jewish connection to Jerusalem – which goes back 3000 years, now they have picked on Chevron to revoke the Jewish connection – our connection there goes back 4000 years. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin tweeted “UNESCO seems intent on sprouting anti-Jewish lies, while it remains silent as the region’s heritage is destroyed by brutal extremists”. Along with BDS, the UN continues to demonstrate its disregard for truth and the actual prosperity of the Palestinians, happy with supporting the very evil it purports it wants to remove.
The one silver lining in the whole UNESCO/BDS farce is the unity it has produced amongst large swathes of the Jewish world. Unfortunately, not the whole Jewish world – once again we need to speak out against our fellow Jews whether from the right or the left who endanger Israel or Jews.
Pinchas ends a sorry chapter in our history, led off the spiritual path by hedonism and immorality, led back to God with strong leadership that was not supported by all the Jews. It sounds very much like the situation we as a nation find ourselves in today. There is no need for the extreme acts of Pinchas in today’s age. However, there is a need for the leadership to bring our nation back to Torah, morality, and a strong support for the State of Israel.
We long for a time when there will be unity across our nation, united by our Torah, by our love of Israel and love of God. Until then, we must keep helping our fellow Jews and being a Kiddush Hashem as well as having to sometimes stand up for what is right – even though the world or some of our fellow Jews may disagree.
Once again – not an easy thing to do – but it is what we are, have always been, called on to do.
Rabbi Andrew Shaw