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Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 11_21_2014
11/21/2014 11:30 AM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
November 21, 2014

 

A few years ago, a young man visited me in my office. He explained that he was in with a group of friends who broke the law and dealt drugs. After a few of his friends died as a result of drug overdoses and violent crimes, he was afraid it was going to happen to another friend soon, if not to him. He was feeling anxious and fearful every day. During the course of our conversation, I helped him understand that it was likely going to happen again. Not that I’m a fortune teller, but how could the same pattern of drugs and violence lead to any other outcome most of the time? What made him think that running drugs and hanging with thugs was going to produce a better life he was beginning to imagine for himself? He needed a new circle of friends, a new way forward, and only he could make that choice for himself. Thankfully, I learned some time later that he did find a new way forward and he’s thriving.

                I thought about his experience, because it can teach us something about our anxiety and fear regarding the Middle East crisis and the rise in anti-Semitism. We, who are Jewish, western and modern, need a new set of friends, too. But, we can’t completely separate ourselves from anti-Semites, terrorists and barbarians, and we don’t wish to live behind walls for safety. However, like the young man who chose a different path, he began by recognizing the difference between himself and others. He chose not to see in his friends any virtue; not because they couldn’t be virtuous, but they consistently chose not to be. Their values and their choices stood in contrast to a lawful world and the future that the young man decided he wanted to seek for himself. Ultimately, he chose a future that was more consistent with his values for meaningful work, a positive place in the community, and family who liked him, again.

                Likewise, ISIS (ISIL), Muslim terrorists in Gaza and the West Bank, Hamas terrorists and nuclear-prone Iran are not our friends. They are not virtuous and they choose not to be when they use tactics that are an affront to humanity, western-style values, and modern sensibilities. I believe this, because horrors like the recent attack on the synagogue in Jerusalem, crudely reported by news sources, are going to happen again. We’ll always be horrified by the attacks, but we shouldn’t be shocked that it keeps happening. When will it end? I can’t say for sure; but, I can say that until and unless western nations and allies in the Middle East admit to each other who the real terrorists are, coalitions of so-called like-minded, peace-loving nations and their leaders will fail to pursue and destroy terrorist targets. The groundwork for coalition building against terrorist targets, and not Jewish scapegoats, is failing to quell growing anxiety and fear among Americans and their real allies.

                I am proud of the young man who found his way by seeing the truth about people he thought were his friends. When he discovered that they weren’t his friends because they could never see the same future, together, he found new friends and a new path. He didn’t kill his friends or condemn them. He merely let them choose their own way while he chose his. Examples for right-living can be found in the annals of history, but it can also be found in the struggles and strivings we face every day. Yes, life can be hard; but, it’s also possible to find even in its challenges all the meaning we need to find our way forward again.

                Pray with me that the world we’ve been entrusted to serve for the short span of our life will sustain all who seek its future and its peace.


You may contact Rabbi David Lyon here.


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