A heart to know, eyes to see and ears to hear
by Rabbi Daniel Allen
Executive Director, ARZA
Also posted in Ten Minutes of Torah
Moses concludes his recitation of blessing and curses when instructing what it means to come into the land by telling the people that only today, forty years after their birth as a people, forty years after the wandering in the desert, have they attained a “heart to know, eyes to see and ears to hear”.
“The people demand social justice” has been the slogan of the “Israeli summer”. In many ways the 460,000 people in the streets on Saturday night September 3rd are the new generation coming into the land after 40 years of wandering.
There is nowhere on earth that compares with the brilliantaccomplishments of the early chalutzim and the first 20 years ofbuilding the Israeli state. Between 1948 and 1952 the populationdoubled. The new state created jobs, living spaces, revived an ancientlanguage and provided a new sense of purpose for the people of both theState of Israel and the Jewish people while securing its own safety ina hostile environment. In 1967 it was clear to the world that Jewishdestiny was in Jewish hands.
In the ensuing 40 years Israel continued toprotect its people, made peace with Egypt and Jordan, tried to pursuepeace with the Palestinians and again brought home one million newcitizens from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia primarily. However,during these years some lost sight of the societal need for equity.
The Kli Yakar teaches us about the phrase V’Rishta, V’Yashavta Bain reference to the land “and you will posses it and dwell in it” Itis explained that human nature is such that after one is settled intheir own land and begins to prosper it is easy to believe that thewealth and prosperity are only of one’s own doing. Some will say thatprosperity comes from God. Others may say it is from the collectiveefforts of the society. For sure, as important as individual work is increating success some elements of prosperity are due to the society as awhole.
Bikkurim is the offering of thefirst fruits of success in order to support the larger society. Itcomes to teach us that our success is part of what the society hasenabled us to accomplish. Israel has been so focused on security issuesfor the past 40 years that the prosperity that was created has notbeen made available to all its citizens. The folks in the tent cities,the marchers in the streets, after 40 years, once again have the heartto know, the eyes to see and the ears to hear for a new generation.
Justice, Justice, You Shall Pursue” is the English translation of the IMPJ bannerunder which members of our Israel movement marched this summer in TelAviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and other places in Israel. Our Reform IsraelMovement was present and proud. Noar Telem in Jerusalem held a Havdalahservice at the sight of the beginning of the march in front of the bigHaMashbir Department store and next to one of the tent enclaves. Morethan 200 people were present.
We work for Israel in many ways. Israeltoday is under enormous political pressures. And yet our love forIsrael is not just about politics. Our vision of Zionism is reflectedin the words of the Israeli Declaration of Independence noting thatIsrael should be “based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged bythe prophets”.
To paraphrase the Torah, we have come intothe land which the Lord our God has given us as an inheritance, we havepossessed it and dwell in it, and we are offering our first fruits,our Bikkurim; to work together for a more just, equitable, andpeaceful Israel. This summer we have all attained a “heart to know,eyes to see and ears to hear”.
Rabbi Daniel R. Allen,Executive Director of ARZA, has served as the CEO of the AmericanFriends of Magen David Adom and the United Israel Appeal. Allen isconsidered a leading expert on Israel and American Jewish Philanthropy.