The Medieval Jewish poet, Yehuda HaLevi, wrote, “My heart is in the East, and I am in the far reaches of the West.” Israel is on my heart always, and especially these two weeks since a terrorist attack killed seven people in Jerusalem as they were leaving Kabbalat Shabbat services. My heart broke again to learn today of a car-ramming attack in Ramot that took the lives of a six-year-old and twenty-year-old. I pray that the loved ones of all the victims will be held as they mourn. I pray every day for an end to the violence, for a deeply-rooted peace.
My heart is in the East, as more than 100,000 of our Israeli siblings have been filling the streets of Tel Aviv and major cities the past month to protest the Minister of Justice’s plan to overhaul the judicial system. The proposed plan would weaken the Supreme Court by giving the Knesset the power to override decisions of the court by a simple majority (61 out of 120 members of parliament). Israelis from the Masorti and Reform movements, secular Israelis, LGBTQ+ Israelis, Palestinian Israelis, Modern Orthodox Israelis, rabbis, scholars, elders, youth and more have been speaking out for the sake of protecting democracy, justice and minority rights. Our shaliach, Abraham, will be holding a conversation about the ongoing protests at the next Israel on Tap, Thursday, February 23rd at 5:30 PM at Landmade Brewery.
This week, in Parashat Yitro, Moses’ father-in-law, Yitro, comes from Midian to meet Moses in the wilderness to celebrate the miraculous deliverance of the Israelites from bondage in Egypt. Yitro sees Moses burdened and burnt-out as the people turn to him day and night to adjudicate disputes. Yitro mentors Moses, encouraging him to find trustworthy leaders among the people and to appoint them as judges who will share the load of leadership. Soon after, in the text, Moses receives the Torah on Mount Sinai. Some commentators imagine that Yitro’s arrival takes place after the revelation. Rabbi Arie Hasit, a leader in the Masorti Movement in Israel wrote this week that he prefers to think Yitro advised Moses and Moses instituted the new leadership structure after he received the law. This is to teach us that in any system of law or authority we need judges who can offer checks and balances. This principle is what our siblings are seeking to protect in Israel.
As we pray each day in our Amidah, may our God who loves justice and compassion, support us on our path.