Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Sh'vuot and Israel, J Street, Peace Now & JVP

This year, the Jewish Holiday called, Sh'vuot (or, alternatively, 'Shavuos'), begins at sundown Tuesday, May 30th. In Israel, we celebrate Sh'vuot for just one day--Wednesday, May 31st. Outside Israel, Jews celebrate 'Shavuos' for two days--Wednesday, May 31st and Thursday, June 1st. 

Some Jews believe Sh'vuot celebrates only that moment in history when G-d gave to the Jews 'The Ten Commandments'. True, we do read the 'Ten Commandments' on this Holiday. But the Holiday itself celebrates more than that.

This Holiday is about the day--this very day (on the Hebrew calendar)--when, some 3,320+ years ago, HaShem gave the entire Torah to us. It's a day we recall the commitment the Jewish people made to the Torah at Mount Sinai, where the 'Ten Commandments' were given. It's a day we commemorate how we--as Jews--have maintained that commitment across thousands of years. It's a day Jews around the world stay up the entire night of Sh'vuot (this year, Tuesday night, May 30-31). Jews stay up all night to study the Torah to demonstrate that that original Sinaitic commitment burns brightly still. 

But this Holiday is about more than that. It's also about 'First Fruits'. It's the Holiday of the 'Time of the giving of the First Fruits' (Bikurim, in Hebrew), when farmers across Israel brought to the Holy Temple samples of product each had grown of the 'seven species' mentioned in the Torah as a source for praise for the Land of Israel (see Talmud Tractate Sotah, 32a, note 9, Schottenstein Day Yomi edition, Talmud Bavli, Mesorah publications, 2010). The seven species are: wheat, barley, grapes, dates, pomegranates, olives and figs. 

When the Temple stood in Jerusalem, Jewish farmers traveled to Jerusalem--perhaps in elaborate processions (the Rambam (app 1135-1204) describes these processions in his Mishneh Torah). Once in Jerusalem, the farmers ascended to the Temple Mount--which stands today in Jerusalem. 

On the Temple Mount, each farmer participated in a joyous ceremony, during which he presented his gifts to one of several Kohainim serving that day.  As part of what was probably a very public and joyous occasion, each farmer recited from a passage in the Torah (D'varim 26:3- 10). 

The words each farmer recited connect Sh'vuot to the Land of Israel, Peace Now, J Street, Jewish Voice for Peace--and other anti-Israel Jewish organizations like them. These words from our ancient Torah remind us that these organizations are wrong.

We have no Holy Temple today (but pray for its return). We do not get to see this ceremony (but pray for its return,too). 

Nevertheless, we know what those ancient farmers said on this occasion. Their recitation links this Holiday, Sh'vuot, to the Land of Israel--and to G-d. Despite what these Jewish anti-Israel organizations want, it's a link that won't go away. 

Those farmers recited: 

"I declare today to HaShem..that I have come to the Land that HaShem swore to our forefathers to give us" (ArtScroll translation, August 2003).

In today's world, such a declaration seems startling: how  many Jews today believe that HaShem, the G-d of Israel, swore to our forefathers to give us the Land of Israel? How many Jews who support J Street, Jewish Voices for Peace and Peace Now believe this declaration? 

All of these organizations say they are pro-Israel. But they reject the basic premise that G-d gave this Land to the Jewish people. How can they be pro-Israel?

They can't be pro-Israel. They reject the link between G-d, the Land and the Jewish people. They reject the Land. They refuse to commit to the Land.

Most don't believe in G-d. Most don't believe there's a connection between G-d and the Land. They've never heard of these ancient farmers, who say: 

"...[HaShem] brought us to this place, and he gave us this Land, a Land flowing with milk and honey"  (D'varim, 26:3-10).

This simple Sh'vuot declaration reminds us of a simple truth about Israel. This Land is connected to both G-d and the Jewish people. These three are not separable. 

For Israel to be strong, Jews must understand the link between G-d, Land and the Jewish people. For these organizations, such a link doesn't exist.  

In my opinion, G-d gave us this Land. He's connected to this Land. He wants us to be here, too.

How do we know our G-d wants us here? Read the Torah. In our Torah, we are told more than 30 times we--the Jewish people--are to dwell/settle/occupy this Land. 

It doesn't get any simpler than that. It certainly doesn't get any clearer than that.

The words of the 'First Fruits' Sh'vuot ceremony remind us of that fact. These words remind us that we are in Israel because out G-d gave it to us as an inheritance.

We should remember that the next time we read how Peace Now, J Street, Jewish Voice for Peace--and all other like-minded organizations--turn against the Land of Israel. We should remember that we've got G-d's written Word in the Torah about Israel, some 3,000 years of archaeology all around us in Israel--and the words of the Biblical 'First Fruit' ceremony to prove it. 

Israel is Jewish. It's our Land. We are not going to allow organizations like J Street, Peace Now or Jewish Voice for Peace to tell us in what direction we must go. Quite the contrary: we should tell them 'where to go'. 

Chag Someach; that is, Happy Holiday.


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