DAY 1412: On Israel and Shepherding

May 12, 2016
By bethmordecai
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DAY 1412: On Israel and Shepherding

“I was a shepherd in Africa…now I shepherd Jewish people to Israel”

– paraphrase of Dr. Avraham Neguise, Likud Member of Knesset and Chairman of Committee on Immigration, Absorption, and Diaspora Affairs

Dear Hevreh,

Israel has always held a special place in my heart. Between college and rabbinical school I took five trips to Israel and after each one my appreciation and love for the miracle of the Jewish State only increased. I even contemplated making aliyah at one point until I felt commanded to serve the Jewish people and religious life in America. This story is not new – many non-Israeli Jews feel a call to join the Jewish project in Israel, yet for one reason or another find that their talents, skills, and strengths are best suited somewhere else.

During yesterday’s Rabbinical Association meeting with Likud Member of Knesset Dr. Avraham Neguise, I asked him if he thought that stories like mine or like others who choosenot to make aliyah are seen as failures on behalf of Israel? After all, his job is to encourage as many people as possible who want to make aliyah to do so – last year Israel reached a four year high of 30,000 olim and this year they’re aiming for 32,000 olim. He said there is no tension – it is important for Israel to have a strong Jewish diaspora that cares about Israel and supports it and if we feel our place is in America, Canada, or elsewhere then we should be there instead of Israel.

I hope that MK Neguise’s beliefs are correct, that the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora is a mutually beneficial one that strengthens each other. I pray that we can make this possible, but on this day as we celebrate the gift of Israel to shepherd Jews back to Israel, we must remember that the ways in which that shepherding is done today is different than ever before.

Our Torah is overflowing with references to our ancestors as shepherds, perhaps as an indicator of the difficulty of herding Jewish people together. We can’t all be in the same place, but we can be more of the same heart. We can see each other – whether of Russian, Israeli, North American, African, Indian, Asian, or European descent – as being part of the same family. This is not easy, and though we don’t all physically live in the same land, we can feel a spiritual kinship with our collective homeland. And perhaps that kinship will bring us together closer as a people, shepherding us to an even brighter Jewish future.

Hag Yom Ha’atzmaut Sameah (Happy Israeli Independence Day),

Rabbi Ari Saks

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