Winter 2003-2004

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MERCAZ USA Newsletter — Winter 2003-2004

From the President's Desk

[Rabbi Kurtz' Dvar Torah was delivered at the recent United Synagogue Biennial Convention]

Rashi's comment on the first verse of the Torah states: "Rabbi Isaac said, The Torah, which is the law book of Israel, should have commenced with the verse 'This shall be unto You the first of the months,' which is the first commandment given to Israel." (Ex. 12:2)

Rashi, following Rabbi Isaac, asks the question: "What is the reason then that it commences with the account of creation" He answers: "For should the people of the world say to Israel 'you are robbers, because you took by force the land of the seven nations of Canaan,' Israel may reply to them, 'All the earth belongs to the Holy One, Blessed be He; He created it and gave it to whom He pleased. When He willed He gave it to them, and when He willed He took it from them and gave it to us.'" In other words, the entire opening narrative of the Torah is recounted so that all people recognize that G-d willed to give the Land of the Canaanites to the Jewish people.

There are some who believe that this is proof enough of Israel's right to the Promised Land. Others may not be comfortable with this explanation. Within our Movement, there are many that do not see the Biblical stories as definitively true and factual and assert that it is really more important for Israel to be militarily strong than to rely on an ancient promise.

I would like to suggest a middle position. We are to be "Partners with G-d" in the endeavors of humanity. We must take that task seriously and recognize that while we leave a little to G-d, we must do our share as well. G-d may have promised us this land but we must work for it and merit it.

To be partners with G-d in this endeavor we must work for a safe, secure and strong Israel. It is our task to support Israel politically, financially and economically. We should be involved in buying Israeli products, investing in Israel Bonds and supporting the philanthropies of our community, which help Israel in its myriad social welfare activities.

We must be prepared to visit the State of Israel. No task is more important for us at this particular moment. For us, it is a shot of adrenaline to our Yiddishe Neshema. For Israelis, it shows our support and brings tourist dollars to Israel. We must send our children to Israel whether for summer programs like USY Pilgrimage or Ramah Seminar or yearlong programs like NATIV, the Conservative Yeshiva or junior year at an Israeli university. We must work to make the State of Israel a safe, secure, strong and peaceful land.

We must also merit the great Zechut of living in an age when the State of Israel is a free, democratic Jewish State. It is our task to help create a "Light to the Nations" and a "Model Society." Our movement's message of tolerance and pluralism, of adherence to Jewish law and a relationship to the world in which we live, is essential for the people of the State of Israel. We must support Masorti Judaism in Israel to the fullest extent possible and offer help and assistance to its institutions, such as Machon Schechter, the Fuchsberg Center and the Conservative Yeshiva.

Finally, as the President of MERCAZ USA, I urge you to join MERCAZ as the Zionist Organization of the Conservative Movement and its advocate for Israel and Zionism. We must have your support in recognizing that Zionism is integral to being a Conservative Jew and that our message is heard at the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency, on the one hand, and in our congregations, schools and institutions, on the other.

I pray that we may be privileged to witness a time of peace and security in our Promised Land.


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