Politics & Parsha: “Shul Politics Like Never Before”
Each week IPA Director of State Affairs Howie Beigelman takes a look at the weekly parsha and discusses it in a way you may never have seen. Any hashkafic, halachic or political opinions are personal and do not reflect the official psak or policy of the OU.
Judaism doesn’t believe in coincidence. Jewish tradition teaches us that the battle between Amalek & ancient Israel was, to borrow a phrase from Bernard Lewis, “a clash of civilizations.” Amalek believed it all – the ten plagues, the splitting of the sea, and even back to Joseph’s rise, Jacob’s battles, Isaac’s alter-cation (pun intended) and Abraham’s covenant – to be coincidence. Israel believed it the powerful Hand – and watchful Eye – of Almighty G-d.
So it is no coincidence, in Jewish eyes, that the tenth anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001, falls on a Sunday immediately preceded by the Torah portion where Moses commands Israel to always remember what Amalek did to you.
Partly, that command also requires us to take the fight to the enemy. Something Saul, as first king of Israel, would do and something his descendant, Mordechai, would continue in a place called Shushan. And, at least in its philosophical dimensions of fighting evil, it is a fight we all are still drafted in to this day.
But partly, it is also our need to remember who we are and who our enemies are. Our values vs. theirs; their best and ours; their response to attacks on civilians and our reaction.
And so we remember 19 men boarded four passenger jets, hijacked them with boxcutters, and turned them into weapons of war, giant kamikazes. The men and women of United Flight 93, who heard Todd Beamer request they “roll,” and who became the first citizen soldiers since who knows when to die on American soil. And we remember the men in a Louisiana prison who asked their warden to donate funds meant for them to the survivors and the families of victims.
We of course remember the police, firefighters and emergency workers who, in the words of then Governor George Pataki, rushed in while others rushed out.
And as we remember the attacks, the victims and the heroes of 9-11 and its aftermath, we must also act. Rabbi Soloveitchik taught that the Jewish question in response to tragedy isn’t “why” – why did this happen? – but “what” – what can I do? We must all think of what we can do to mark and remember.
Words to consider, ideas to ponder — politics & the parsha.
In memory of all those innocents who perished on September 11th and in gratitude to all the first responders who on that day served on America’s front line. In gratitude as well, to all those doing their duty today to keep us safe.