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140http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2013/03/Rabbi-Lyon%27s-Blog---03_29_2013
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 03_29_2013
03/28/2013 07:00 AM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
March 29, 2013

 

Passover Seders are behind us, but the holiday doesn’t end until Monday night. During the week, we recount the ancient story and relate its themes to our struggle for freedom today.  

                In the U.S.-Israel relationship, greater freedom began with President Obama’s recent visit to Israel. Though he has had numerous conversations and meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the past, this was Obama’s first trip to Israel as President. Everybody watched as the President and Prime Minister exchanged messages and promises. The outcome was positive. Familiar leaders and young students in Israel gave Obama favorable ratings for his message and purpose. Some Israelis who had previously discounted Obama, now found him to be sincere and supportive of Israel, as much as any previous president had been. Nothing in Obama’s statements should have given Israel reasons to question his commitments. And, why would they? Israel remains the only reliable, democratic, Middle-Eastern ally. On the subject of oil, arms, Arab spring, and, most notably, Iran, the U.S. and Israel need each other.

                I am not a prophet, but the relatively unchecked developments in Iran’s nuclear program suggests to me that Obama’s visit to Israel underscores any future messages that the U.S. and Israel will make about it. The clock is ticking on Iran’s nuclear capability completion date, and though intercepting it militarily poses incalculable risks, the world looks to the U.S. and Israel for a response. Whether or not Israel will act alone, all signs are being directed to the conclusion that, after any possible strike is made against Iran’s nuclear facilities, the U.S. and Israel will address the world as one.

                Another struggle is taking place in Israel, but it’s an internal struggle for freedom. Akin to the Arab spring, modern Israelis, most notably women, are gaining ground in their effort to be heard. The Reform Movement is at the heart of their effort to pray as equals at the Western Wall, to advocate for religious women to ride the bus as men do, and to win recognition for weddings and conversions to be recognized by the state outside the current Orthodox rabbinic authority. Modernity and Judaism have rarely been out of synch except in Israel, where Orthodox authorities rule all religious functions.

                Reform Judaism, represented by the URJ, HUC-Jerusalem, and leaders like Anat Hoffman of the Israeli Religious Action Center, and Rabbi Uri Regev of Hiddush, are making greater and swifter strides in recent times. You’re invited to hear Rabbi Uri Regev at Congregation Beth Israel, on June 7th, when he will speak during Shabbat Summer services in the Gordon Chapel. In advance, peruse his website at www.hiddush.org for the latest news on advances in freedom for progressive (liberal) Jews and Judaism in Israel.

                This is not an example of America exporting democracy to a theocracy. Israel is a democratic state built on democratic principles, much like the Torah teachings, themselves. All the people are bound to the covenant God made with the Israelite people when they went free out of Egypt, as we learn, “You stand this day, all of you, before the Lord your God, every Israelite” (Deuteronomy 29:9ff). All are equal before God; some are not more equal than others. In the 21st century, in a world filled with more freedoms for Jews than at any other time in world history, it’s time to let Torah burst forth in the hands of every Jew, especially in Israel.

                From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom and Happy Passover.

 

Yizkor will be observed at services on Monday, April 1st, 10:30am in the Gordon Chapel. All are welcome.

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