We reap what we sow

The scenes of violence in our streets will be shown around the world. Are we exalting the Name of God?

Dr. Devorah Ungar ,

המחאה בבני ברק
המחאה בבני ברק
איתן אלחדז/TPS

“When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s life may be

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” (Wendell Berry)

The wildness of nature. The great heron who simply feeds. The wood drake who simply exists in the beauty of his drake-ness. The stars which shine, and mirror the glory of the heavens, wordlessly, through their sparkle.

The birds who sing, just because they are singing. Just because they are birds. Because it is daytime, and that is what they do.

As that lovely morning, when I sat in the garden, listening to the singing of the birds in the lush foliage of flowering trees. “What are they saying?” asked my grandchild. “Nishmat kol chai t’varech et shimcha” I answered him.

“The soul of every living being shall bless Your name, Lord our God; and the spirit of all flesh shall always glorify and exalt Your remembrance, our King….”.

Would that we also could live in that fashion. Of just living. Of just being. Of just glorifying the Creator of the World by our sheer existence.

But we, Man, apparently do not have that destiny. Of living our lives just for the simple sake of Life itself. We as Man have a sense that our lives have a different quality to them than that of existence for the pure sake of existence. For each person on an individual level, for society as a group, there is something other than mere existence, mere waking in the morning and enjoying the blessings of sunshine, the feel of the breeze, that gives us fulfillment in our lives. That gives us a sense of Why we are Alive. That gives us a sense of meaning, of purpose, of gratification in our lives. We have a higher purpose in life.

Deprive man of that aspect in his life, of that Higher Purpose, and his life becomes meaningless, worthless, perhaps even ‘lifeless’.

Tragically, we have been witness to aspects of this phenomenon now for an entire year. Both on the individual level, and on the national level. Perhaps even on the global level. This past year’s sudden smashing of life as we once knew it, has caused each of us to reevaluate. Actually, what is Life? What is it that gives life its meaning? For what am I waking in the morning? For the voice of my child, for the upcoming zoom-chat, for the hope of a prayer, for the sound of music, for the wonder of life itself, for the opportunity to give thanks this morning to God for Life….? For each one of us, the answer is unique.

But, as growing protests in the street demonstrate, take away from man the reason for which he feels he lives, and you are taking away his very life.

The recent violent clashes between some of the haredi sector in Israel and the police as to the issue of opening schools, may be a tragic example of this essential principle.

I personally am shocked by the scenes of the past few days. As if a bucket of ice-cold water has been thrown upon me in the middle of an otherwise cloudy, but dry day. Scenes of violence between haredi-religious and police in the cities of Jerusalem, Bnai Brak, Ashdod. Religious men violently attacking police, their fellow brothers, with shouts and stones. Police advancing in large force accompanied by the sound of screams and stun-grenades.

Scenes which, to my horror and disbelief, are occurring on the streets of the Holy Land. Watching these images, I am not quite sure if I am awake or asleep. Is the morning light shining, or is it still nighttime? A nightmare? Am I in the Promised Land, or in some movie scene in another time and place?

What is going on?

Perhaps this is an outburst of violence of hoodlums, dressed in religious garb, who are not following edicts of rabbis, because rabbis have condemned them.

And perhaps this is an insurrection of those who do not follow edicts of the government. It is at present illegal to open schools. It is illegal also at the moment to pray in synagogues, to hold large weddings, to eat in restaurants, to hold cultural events…. The list is long. In our attempt to prevent illness, in our belief that these activities are endangering the lives of others.

But, the question must be raised. What is Life? For what are we living?

On a deep level, there may be here an existential issue. There are those who believe that studying Torah is the meaning of existence. On this study does the world rest. For one who believes that the Torah is the source of all life, and that studying the Torah will bring Life to him, and that transmitting knowledge of the Torah to the next generation is what is essential to the Life of the next generation, anc can only be accomplished in a yeshiva, this study is as vital as drinking water.

This is a profound issue, which is not being addressed in its subtlety and complexity.

Instead, we are witness to images of frustration and rage.

Something in my soul refuses to accept the reality of these scenes. It is inconceivable that these events are taking place in our country, in the Holy Land. My mind drifts to the words of the ancient text:

“Joy is gone from our hearts;

our dancing has turned to mourning…..

Because of this our hearts are faint,

Because of these things our eyes grow dim

for Mount Zion, which lies desolate,

with jackals prowling over it.” (Lamentations 5:15-18)

A reminder of a former period in the history of our nation. According to tradition, the Second Temple was destroyed because of “baseless hatred”. The destruction of the Second Temple led to our Nation being exiled from this Land for generations.

And therefore, just as the question is asked on an individual level, it may also be asked on a national level.

What is our role as a Nation in the Land of Israel?

Simply to be?

As birds fly in a flock, as wild horses roam in a herd, as rain pours from the sky? In the freedom of the wild? In the beauty of the togetherness of man?

Or have we another role as a nation? A divine purpose?

May it be Your will to return the homeless of Your people Israel to the land of Your holiness.

Lead us with song to Zion Your city, and with everlasting joy to Jerusalem, where Your Temple stood.

There, as in days of old, we shall worship You with reverence and with Love.” (morning prayer)

Do our actions bring pride to us as a People? Reflect our sanctity as a Nation? Our awareness of the blessings we enjoy and the privilege we have to live our lives as Jews in the Promised Land. The responsibility we have as Jews to dignify our presence in this land, to provide by our actions, our morality, our ethical behavior, a beacon of faith to the world.

Are we fulfilling our role as a Nation in the Land of Israel?

The scenes of violence in our streets will be shown around the world.

Are we exalting the Name of God?

In a few days, it will be Tu B’shvat.

A reminder that “you reap what you sow”.

May we sow only the seeds of understanding, kindness and peace, that will enable us to truly be a Holy Nation.

May we plant a ‘Tree of Life’, and not of chaos and destruction.

May we wake in the night without the fear of what our life and our children’s life may be, with the true blessing of Life in the Promised Land.

“The Lord gives strength to his people;

the Lord blesses his people with peace.” (Psalm 29:11)