Sunday, December 24, 2017

Substance, Yes. Timing, No.

This is what is meant by Israel's capital (Cross Currents)
I find myself in the odd situation of agreeing with two articles while wishing they hadn’t been published. The two articles are unrelated other than they are both occurred relatively close to each other and they both involved the President on the United States.

Rabbi Avi Shafran correctly analyzes the reality of Jerusalem as it exists today. He said much the same thing I have said many times. The essence of Jerusalem’s importance to us is that it is the home of Har HaBayis – the Temple Mount where the Beis Hamikdash once stood. And where the Al Aqsa Mosque now stands. It is the place chosen by God for his ‘presence on earth’ to reside.  And it is the place Muslims believe Mohamed ascended to Heaven. Making it the 2nd holiest site in Islam.

Rabbi Shafran explains that the significance of announcing Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital ignores the fact that its holiest site is not now and never was in our possession despite the fact that it was captured by Israel in the 1967 six day war. And despite the fact that Israel controls access to it - the reality is that Jews do not control that area at all. It is controlled by Muslims who are funded by Jordan.  We Jews cannot even access the holiest portions of that place even if Muslims were OK with it due to Halachic issues. 

All the declarations in the world would not change these facts.

I too thought that declaring Jerusalem as our capital was not worth the possible violence that such a declaration might spike and said so publicly before the fact.  And as Rabbi Shafran also notes, we all know what peace would look like in the event that it would actually happen. Palestinians would most likely retain East Jerusalem (where Har HaBayis is located) as their capital. 

This was already agreed to by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Once Israel allowed that as an option for a future state, there is no taking it back. And yet East Jerusalem (the old city) is what religious Jews mean when we talk about Jerusalem being the capital of Israel. Realistically we are not going to truly posses it until the advent of Moshaich. The Arabs are not about to cede Har HaBayis to us in any kind of peace deal.

And yet I still don’t think this was the time to talk about these facts. I believe that once the deed was done and America has declared Jerusalem  the eternal capital of Israel,we should celebrate it. That the most powerful nation recognizes the importance of the Jewish connection to Jerusalam and not specifying that it applies only to West Jerusalem is an unprecedented and courageous endorsement. That it was dome in the face of world opposition - adds to its significance as a moral victory for the Jewish people. Now is the time to celebrate it. It is not the time to talk about why it wasn't that significant to us as religious Jews. 

There is not going back. I don’t see any future President reversing that decision even if they hadn't done so had they been in office. That would be a lot worse than simply not recognizing it - which was the case before now. It would be viewed as a denial of our claims no matter how any reversal might be couched.  The US now sees it as Israel’s capital and it is going to stay that way.

Bethany Mandel’s Forward op-ed on Rubashkin is the other article that I both agree with and wish she hadn’t written. At least not yet.

Inappropriate celebration at 770 - Chabad headquarters
Rubashkin should not be celebrated as a hero. I had been in the forefront of expressing this view when the news about the various crimes he was accused of broke. No one was more upset than I was at the Chilul HaShem that was unfolding at the time. But this is not the moment to rehash all of those things the way Mrs. Mandel did. Because the 'crime' against Rubashkin far outweighed what he did in my view. His prison sentence was so harsh that it begged for a resolution like this long before it finally happened last Wednesday.

This was instead the time to thank President Trump for his compassion, not to the time point out how evil Rubashkin may have been. It was the time to point out the near universal agreement about the injustice of his sentence. Which was finally righted. 

It is understandable that an  Orthodox Jew is the one that felt the need to remind the world of the crimes he was accused of - and the crime he was convicted of. But at the same time the timing was way off.  Why dampen a moment of great joy his family now feels? What is gained by talking about it now?

Let the Rubashkins have their moment! Let them enjoy it without having to put up with all of the negative reminders published in a widely circulated Jewish medium. That would have been the more compassionate thing to do. The lessons that need to be learned from the wrongdoing of an Orthodox Jew could have been delayed a few weeks… or even a few months. No one would have suffered if this had been done. I am so sorry that someone felt the need to do it now.

So yes, I have mixed emotions about both Rabbi Shafran’s article and Mrs. Mandel’s article. I agree with them. But I would not have said so publicly. At least not yet.