Wednesday, April 01, 2020

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I, like so many in our community, enjoy reading The Jewish Link. I appreciate the interesting articles and attractive advertisements. I also enjoy watching my children’s delight as they search for pictures of themselves and their friends in the school/camp section featured toward the end of the paper.

This past Shabbat, as I was reading the paper, I came across a full-page advertisement that greatly upset me. The ad had only eight words: “Do You Know Why Moshiach Has Not Arrived?” On the bottom of the page there were two pictures: on the left, a picture of two women holding up a sign that read “American Jews Support BDS”; on the right, a picture of a Neturei Karta protest at the Israel Day Parade, with a Palestinian flag waving in the background.

The message was crystal-clear. Moshiach has not yet arrived because we are plagued by terrible Jewish-led movements such as BDS and Neturei Karta.

My heart sank after reading this advertisement. However, my sadness was not related to BDS nor Neturei Karta, though it is absolutely true that both movements are tragically flawed. BDS is a poisonous political tool that must be defeated. The Neturei Karta’s public protests are disgraceful and shameful.

My heart sank because the subtext of this advertisement is also deeply flawed. In only eight words the message embedded in this advertisement is that Moshiach has not arrived because of the fault of others. It is always easier to blame a problem on something external rather than take personal responsibility. However, Judaism demands that we look inward, not outward, and engage in an honest cheshbon hanefesh, an accounting of the soul.

We just finished mourning for the destruction of the First and Second Batei Mikdash. The Talmud explains that the Second Beit Hamikdash was destroyed specifically because of sinat chinam, baseless hatred. The Netziv, in his introduction to Sefer Bereishit, explains how this baseless hatred developed. He suggests that during the Second Temple period, people believed that they practiced the perfect form of Judaism. Anyone less religious was a liberal heretic; anyone more religious was a religious fanatic. Toxic resentment emerged. All ills and spiritual failings could be traced to everyone else. Nobody found any guilt or wrongdoing on his or her own part.

Nearly 2,000 years of a long and bitter exile have ensued, and yet we continue to stumble for the same reasons. The painful truth is that Moshiach has yet to arrive and we all share the blame.

On the heels of Tisha B’Av, I believe that the two pictures printed on the bottom of this misguided advertisement should be a genuine call for self-reflection. The picture of the BDS banner should trigger deeply personal questions. Have I done enough to support the State of Israel? Have I been as politically active as I could be? What more can I do to support our brothers and sisters in Israel?

The picture of the Neturei Karta should also prompt difficult questions. Am I excelling in the mitzvah of ahavat Yisrael? When was the last time I did an act of kindness for a Jew outside my social circle? Do I exude a love for the Jewish people?

If we spend our time wagging our collective finger at the others, Moshiach will not inch even one step closer. The responsibility to bring the redemption falls equally on each of our shoulders; we ought to do more soul-searching and less finger-waving.

If next Tisha B’Av we once again sadly find ourselves in exile, I would suggest a different full-page advertisement with only eight words: “Have I Truly Done Enough to Bring Moshiach?”

Rabbi Zev Goldberg
Young Israel of Fort Lee, NJ