As one who thought seeing Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera up close was the ultimate (in San Antonio, one would say Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli), this past week in Washington at AIPAC makes that a distant second. In three days I had the opportunity to hear from Prime Minister Netanyahu and meet with Congressmen Will Hurd and Joaquin Castro and Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn. We heard from United States Representative to the United Nations Samantha Power, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, and many more! Moreover, we had the opportunity to hear from the parents of the three boys who were so tragically murdered last summer; it was one of the most powerful points of the entire conference.
Being with 16,000 others as passionate about the State of Israel as I was invigorating. The woes that confront Israel are known, but when you hear of them compressed into a few days, it becomes bewildering.
The general sessions when everyone is together seemed like a sporting event-everyone was rooting for Israel! This year the focus was on ensuring that Iran does not gain the capabilities of nuclear weapons. Watch some of the videos from the conference. In particular I enjoyed Samantha Power and am enamored with Senator Robert Menendez. Click Here to view. I hope these videos will help prompt lots of discussion in the weeks to come.
The larger sessions were wonderful, but it was the smaller or breakout ones for rabbis that were truly stimulating. Emphasis was placed on how to make Israel more relevant to the younger generation and how to be able to discuss and debate Israel's issues in a persuasive and constructive manner. At one session in particular led by Donniel Hartman, we spoke about not becoming Ahasuerus today where we are ambivalent and oblivious to everything going on in society, particularly related to Israel.
Our parasha this week, Ki Tissa, opens with the commandment that each member of the Jewish nation must contribute a half-shekel for the upkeep of the Tabernacle. Noting the unusual language which states that, "Thisthey shall give," Rashi (on verse 13), quoting Midrash, teaches that Moses was shown an actual image of a coin so that he would know exactly what amount to collect from the people. "[The Holy One] showed [Moses] a coin of fire whose weight was a half-shekel and said, 'Like this they shall give.'" Why did God show Moses a coin of fire? Why not a regular coin?
Rabbi Nachman of Breslev explains that money and fire share unique qualities. Fire is considered to be one of the most important and indispensable elements known to man. Fire, when used properly, helps the world to exist. But, when misused, that very same fire also has the potential to be destructive. The same can be said of money. Money, when used properly, helps to make the world a better place. But wealth also carries great danger if it falls into the wrong hands, and if misused, money could lead to terrible destruction. Moses was shown a coin of fire to emphasize that both fire and money carry incredible powers for good and for evil.
This is also the case with Iran. If nuclear weapons end up in the wrong hands, we are all in grave danger in the world, particularly Israel. While the politics that led to Prime Minister Netanyahu being "invited" raise questions, I do feel his message was important to Congress, the American public, and the entire world.
We must speak out to our legislators and make sure they hear from us as to just how important Israel is. We need them to stand up for Israel and ensure that Iran is not given an ounce of chance to continue its nuclear program. We can make a difference! Am Yisrael Chai!
Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham
Please save the date of Wednesday, March 18th at 12:30, as we will discuss the outcome of the Israeli elections from March 17th together at Agudas, for those who can attend. Also, be on the lookout for an e-mail on Monday regarding many other exciting Israel-related items here at Agudas, including our upcoming June 2016 Israel trip from June 5-17, 2016!