I waited to write this Dvar Torah until mid-April, hoping that progressive Jews all over the world would celebrate the end of the dark night. Joy, however, did not come in the morning, nor a Yom Ha’atzmaut we could look forward to as heralding a new day for Israel’s advance toward peace. But hope is possible and necessary.
If reading the news leads to despair, perhaps like Thoreau, we’d better live in the eternities for guidance in our relationship to Israel. In a similar vein, in the Talmud (Shabbat 31a), we learn that at the end of our lives, we’ll be face-to-face with the One who made us, and we’ll be asked four questions — none of which is whether we ate cheeseburgers or flew on Shabbat. We can apply these same questions to Israel, a country we love and simultaneously struggle with.
The first question asks if we behaved fairly in business. While Israel is prospering as a high-tech nation, the gap between rich and poor grows yearly under Israel’s current government.
Second question: Did you set aside time to study each day? In Ha’aretz, we read of the crisis in public education afflicting the schools.
The third question is about family and procreation. What is Israel doing to create a new generation to carry on the promise of a democratic Jewish homeland with freedom and equality for all?
And the last, perhaps most important question: Did you keep hope for the future? The national anthem, Hatikva, The Hope, feels prescient now because keeping hope for peace is our great test. How do we keep hope for Israel this Yom Ha’atzmaut? As the eternal dying people that has managed in marginality to stick around for three millennia, perhaps our long history gives us hope for a future.
Moreover, Musar teaches that this world is supposed to be the “corridor” of the World to Come. Whether or not we believe in the traditional idea of the World to Come, engaging with the challenges that face us benefits our souls in the here and now as we pass through the corridor of the present time. Our greatest test right now is to keep hope and faith with Israel and not give up.
As the Talmud teaches, radical hope is the key to our survival. Hope is also necessary for us to take action. Abdication and apathy are death. That is why J Street is essential for a Jewish future: it gives us reason to keep hope. As long as we keep fighting the cynical, toxic voices that stir fear and racism, and push back against the forces that will do anything to dominate, we have good reason to keep hope for the future.
This year, we will once again wave the Israeli flag with memory of its dream and its hope — and accept the imperative to make good on that hope.
Rabbi Malka Drucker has written 21 books, was ordained at the Academy for Jewish Religion and is the founding spiritual leader of HaMakom: The Place for Passionate and Progressive Judaism in Santa Fe, New Mexico where she is the rabbi emerita. In 2016, she became the rabbi of Har Shalom in Idyllwild. You can learn more about Rabbi Drucker at her website: www.malkadrucker.com.