Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018 | 2 a.m.
“A light unto the nations.”
I have been thinking about this biblical commandment as the Jewish world prepares for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which starts this Tuesday evening.
When the sun sets and the shofar blows Wednesday night, Jews around the world will have sought forgiveness for their sins and looked forward to being entered in the Book of Life for another year.
According to our calendar, we have been at this for 5,779 years, so we ought to have a pretty good idea about how to survive in a world that has seemed, at times, hell-bent on preventing the Jewish people from reaching the next new year.
The history books are replete with stories of man’s inhumanity toward the Jews, the latest and most horrific, of course, being the Holocaust. And, still, we pray for peace in the Middle East and around the world since we have been commanded to be that light — especially during the dark times — to people everywhere.
We find ourselves and our world at a point that most people would consider challenging, certainly when viewed historically over the past century. A worldwide depression and a world war — which witnessed the worst of man’s inhumanity — was overcome by the nations of the world coming together in a way previously unknown or (unavailed) as an antidote to global destruction.
The United States led the way forward as the light unto the nations of the world. In doing so, it forged the alliances to help create the State of Israel as well as rebuild a war-torn Europe. History has shown that it was a Europe that would have virtually disappeared without America and an Israel that could not have survived without the United States having its back.
So now we find ourselves deep into a new century with the need for our country, the United States of America, to lead the world away from the brink once again. But this time, unfortunately, I see our own country heading toward a brink of its own.
And the one constant that our country could count on throughout its history — the moral leadership of the Jewish people — is wavering.
I don’t come to this conclusion lightly. It has been informed by a lack of Jewish leadership in matters of high geopolitical concern and low and local community actions that cry out for the light that has always been ours to provide. That is, if you believe in the Old and New Testaments!
I have always believed that peace in the Middle East was essential to a stable world order simply because it is at the intersection of so many national interests, all vying for advantage over the others. If the Jews in Israel and the Arabs in the surrounding countries can find a way to live and grow in peace together, how hard can it be for the rest of the world to find its way out of the dark times that are constantly swirling about us?
That is why at the end of each Yom Kippur, we pray for peace in the Middle East.
Today, I think we have to also pray for peace much closer to home. Anti-Semitism has once again found its voice in the United States, not just on the outer fringes, where it has lived forever, but in the mainstream of our political processes.
Where we once had leadership that decried such an outrage, we have witnessed in our political discourse leaders who, if not encourage it, do not specifically condemn it. And they are aided and abetted in such hate-mongering by Jewish supporters who have blinded their own eyes and deafened their own ears to the hate that is consuming us.
Who can ignore a country that tears children from their mothers and forces thousands of youngsters seeking refuge into foster care that is too big and cumbersome to actually care? And who can ignore the dog whistles to the hate groups as well as the moral equivalence conferred upon those who profess immorality, by no less than the president of this great country? And who can continue to condone one lie after another told over and over again — sound familiar? — by our country’s leader in an effort to cow those who are prepared to be cowed?
Rather than be a light unto the nations, many of my co-religionists have sought the ignorance of darkness, rationalizing their behavior by redefining morality on the fly, all to advantage themselves by some tax breaks and other sops that are unworthy of people chosen for better things.
This year, as we have always done, we will pray for peace in Israel. I will also be praying for a certain peace in the United States. And that is the kind of peace that allows people, once again, to moor themselves to a set of principles that set our country apart from all others. They are the principles that have enabled the United States to be that light unto all the nations of the world.
And, by extension, the continued biblical admonition to the Jewish people to be the same.
Brian Greenspun is editor, publisher and owner of the Sun.