Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Matthew Eisenfeld wrote the following essay and submitted it to his practical rabbinics seminar leader Rabbi Shlomo Tucker of the Schechter Institute in Jerusalem on October 21, 1995 (29 Tishri 5756). This essay does not appear in Love Finer Than Wine and is published here for the first time. ECB

Ani Maamin (I Believe)

I like to think about Israel as our people's collective effort to build a homeland in hope of better achieving our goals, however divers our conception of those goals may be. The Jewish people need a homeland in order to further our national existence, both within and beyond the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael. Within the nation, we are enabled to build our own institutions which cater to our peculiar needs, and in the diaspora, the existence of the Jewish state is a rallying force which makes Jews proud of themselves. Israel's existence makes religious Jews look less silly in their observance, and provides the non-religious with Jewish role models other than the traditional pictures of dancing Hasidim which many both admire and fear. 

I consider myself a Zionist because I believe it is important for Jews to work together in such a constructive fashion. Having been involved with community building and maintenance in college, I feel that I have tasted in a small degree the difficulty of bringing people together to act for a cause. Often, people are unwilling to give much of themselves unless a cause is somehow of critical importance to them, but building Eretz Yisrael seems to be a cause critical to the sensibilities of most Jews. Eretz Yisrael is, after all, the land of the Tanakh and the land of our ancestors. We feel an attachment to this land, and as such, Israel is probably the only location on the planet upon which Jews could agree as the appropriate place to build a state. 

I do not believe, however, that because we Jews work together to build the State of Israel that all Jews are therefore obligated to live in the state. Jews are not committed to other Jews only, but play a role in the destiny of all humankind. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, z"l, said that wherever one is guided to live, the place was set aside for the coming of the Moshiah because our commitments extend beyond ourselves, our families, and our immediate group. We have obligations to the place in which we live and the people who live in our communities. The nature of these obligations only become clearly defined through our continued association with those around us. 

The obligation to associate with other, be they Jewish or not, would lead me to support the Rabin government and vote Avodah were I a citizen of Israel. I find myself amazed by what seems to be progress in the peace process. I have heard it said that one should not judge Israel by its bleak future prospects but by its remarkable accomplishments of the past. Five years ago, how unthinkable would it have been to suggest that a Prime Minister of Israel and Yasser Arafat would actually work together order to create a lasting peace? Israel should take inspiration from history and proceed with confidence. Though problems continue to exist, Israel is engaged in the difficult work of building confidence among its inhabitants and neighbors. Mo success will come without mutual sacrifice. 

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