What will the Jewish world look like for our children and grandchildren, especially for those who remain in America and outside the land of Israel? What contribution are we making towards defining that world beyond our own four cubits? What responsibility do we have?
We read this week that, “Hashem blessed Abraham with everything”. Rashi asks how we define the word everything, in Hebrew Bakol? He writes the word Bakol is numerically equal to the word Ben meaning son and continues, “Since he (Abraham) now had a son (Isaac), he had to find him a wife.” From here we learn that one generation is responsible for the Jewish continuity of the next generation; of defining the world and ensuring there is a tomorrow. Abraham is always stepping forward and it’s his example we must follow.
In last week’s portion we read of our forefather at 99 years old. Three days earlier he was commanded and complied with Hashem’s command to circumcise his entire household which must have quite daunting. He circumcised his son and himself and now is at the height of post-operative pain and discomfort. The sun as if removed from the sheath which protects the world from the heat and rays shines down makes venturing out nearly impossible. Abraham is sitting at the entrance of his tent in the midst of some prophetic experience where Hashem himself has come to him. And then what appear to be three Arabian travelers are seen in the distance. Abraham has every excuse to remain where he is. Yet he does not use any of them. Instead he runs to greet and serve them. We are often told that to succeed in life, one must step out of his comfort zone. The example set for us by Abraham is so much more.
Last week we sew Abraham running to do. We saw him argue with G-d over Sedom. And we saw him at the very end of the portion willing to go against his very nature in binding Isaac. The week prior we saw HaShem tell Abraham to go (Lech Lecha) and he does. We saw Abraham risk life and limb to rescue his nephew. Abraham is our example of stepping out of our comfort zone into the world and making a difference. He stands in sharp contrast to his ancestor Noah who locks himself into the ark saving no human other than his family.
As observant Jews from tight knit communities, we often find ourselves mimicking Noah and locking out the turbulent waters of the outside world. We build our own arks for our families and friends. We create a comfort zone. We ought to remember that it is Abraham whom we should mimic.
Last week I attended a continuing education program in media training. What would have been an expensive course was, thanks to our friends at UJA given free to members of the local rabbinate. And I am deeply grateful to UJA and to the course presenters and teachers for an incredibly informative day.
When I walked into the room, I was one of 14 rabbis attending. Strange enough many of these rabbis wore no yalmakahs although most of the lady rabbis did have a Kippah on their heads. And when our OU certified sandwich was served, only my neighbor from Lido Beach, Rabbi Shaul Rappaport and I got up to wash. At the sink we presumed we wouldn’t get a third for zemun and we were right. Now the other twelve attendees were brilliant people with masters degrees and PHDs that attest to the fact. They were also kind and socially conscious. But when it came to what I’ll label as Torat Moshe, Halacha and Rabbinic Judaism, they were clueless. And just as sad was that these were the types of rabbis who we read about in the papers over the holidays who were scared to speak about supporting Israel because so many of their left leaning liberal and intermarried congregants were spewing anti Israel propaganda in line with their bible, The New York Times. You may be thinking that we have nothing to do with these people so why am I even telling this story.
Four years ago Haham OvadiaYosef z”sl, and the council of Torah Sages directed us to join the World Zionist Organization (WZO) and help direct and influence the future of the Jewish people. Haham Ovadia personally commissioned former member of Keneset and mayor of Tiberias Yigal Bibi to direct these efforts.
A little history. The WZO was originally founded at the initiative of Theodore Herzl at the first Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland in 1897. It was based on the principles of creating a Jewish homeland in Eretz Israel, and ultimately ending anti-Semitism. The WZO includes several national institutions that are active in Israel and world Jewry. These institutes include the Jewish Agency, Zionist Federation, Keren Kayemet, L’Yisrael and Keren Hayesod. In the past the Diaspora supported these efforts. Now at the backing of Natan Sharansky, the Israeli government participates actively in funding projects run by these national institutions, with the emphasis this year on support for the absorption of immigrants and expansion of Jewish education and identity in the Diaspora.
Who dictates how the money is spent and who dictates the direction of the education and creating identities both in Israel and abroad? It is the delegates of the WZO. And if we do not heed the words of the Rishon LeSion Haham Ovadia and take a stand, then the ones who dictate will all resemble those twelve rabbis and their liberal congregants. And our children and our children’s children will feel the effect. It is time to step out of our comfort zone.
Haham Ovadia understood that we the Torah observant community must have a strong and paramount influence in the education of the Jewish people throughout the world; to provide rabbis and educators in the Diaspora, absorb and encourage Aliyah and ensure that these issues are not left to outside influences.
To that end the World Sephardic Zionist Organization – Ohavei Zion was formed with a list of delegates from our many communities all under the banner championed by Haham Ovadia and supported by our Sephardic Sages today. And each and every lover of Torah and Misvot must join in this endeavor. And it takes so little to do so. There are hundreds and hundreds of thousands of us. We can really make a difference. We simply need to register and vote.
Elections for the 37th World Zionist Congress will take place during the coming year for the delegates for these national institutions. Our aspirations are to strengthen the presence of the World Sephardic Zionist legacy of Maran. For the first time, the delegates will also be representing the issue of the rights of the Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries, which was recognized by the Israeli government and the International community through legislation initiated by a Member of Knesset.
Our Sages are appealing to our brothers and sisters throughout the world to support the Ohavei Zion Movement within the World Zionist Organization (WZO) for the upcoming elections, which will be crucial for the future identity and unity of the Jewish people.
The first step in creating our new party is to register a minimum of 600 people so that we can become a recognized party and this must be done within the next thirty days. To register in support of the party, please visit here. There you will be asked to fill in your personal information and check-off boxes approving our party. There is a nominal registration fee of $5 for those under 30 or $10 depending for the rest of us. Please make sure all your family members register.
Additionally we will need volunteers and point people to assist us from every synagogue and school in every community in the country. This is your opportunity to truly make a difference. If you can help, please contact Lana Eliyahu at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at 917-213-4600.
We are not known as Benai Noah. We are called Benai Yisrael. We are the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We are the children of Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. Each of them was tested to step out of their comfort zone. Each was required to venture beyond the ark. Each changed the world.
We saw last week that Abraham had lots of excuses available to him. He had old age. He had pain. He even had G-d’s presence as an excuse not to get up. Yet he used none of them. And not only did he step out, he ran. And this week we see his dedication towards the future. One may be blessed with everything, but without a future, everything is worthless.
The work to register our communities is great. The time is short. The potential benefits are enormous. And our sages are begging us to step out and to run. Join us in this marathon to benefit the Jewish people. Prepare the future.
Senior Rabbi – Benai Asher – The Sephardic Congregation of Long Beach
Vice Chair – Ohavei Zion – WSZO