Between last year’s Gaza war (complete with US diplomatic pressure on Israel to capitulate), ever-reaching incursions of BDS into American campuses and other attempts to infiltrate everyday life, the Iran Nuclear Surrender and the Obama Administration’s increasingly vocal antisemitism, I can’t not lend my voice to protest and combat. Fighting for Israel and the Jewish People is not optional. But quite often I resent the time and attention those efforts take from my preferred work as a man. I love to explore, share and inspire fellow Jews with the complex beauty and compelling lessons I have discovered in our Torah. I would be a happy man if I could, indeed, spend all my hours within my own “virtual yeshiva“, concerned only with Torah.
Happy, perhaps, but irresponsible and, so, not truly happy. First, of course, I must also earn a living for myself and family, (יָפֶה תַלְמוּד תּוֹרָה עִם דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ (אבות ב:ב (Yafa Talmud Torah Im Derech Eretz (Avot 2:2)), “Torah Study is (becomes) beautiful (only) with earning a living”. Just as much a responsibility, actually an integral part of caring for my family, I also must fight for the survival of our people and our country.
Shir HaShirim addresses this dilemma, (שְׂמֹאלוֹ תַּחַת לְרֹאשִׁי וִימִינוֹ תְּחַבְּקֵנִי (שיר השירים ב:ו (S’molo Tachat l’Roshi U’y’mino T’chabkeyni (Shir HaShirim 2:6), “His Left Arm cradles my head; His Right Arm embraces me.” Traditionally, the right arm represents qualities of חסד (Chesed), “love”, as well as פנימיות (p’nimiut), “interior”, so it embraces/loves us and fills our Neshamot (souls) with sweet Torah. The left, on the other hand, evokes גבורה (Gevurah), “strength” and מקיף (makif), “surrounding/encompassing”–it cradles and protects us from all sides. Together these arms make the two-way embrace of God-to-Israel and Israel-to-God, which bind us as one ,אחד (Echad) and, thus, complete, שלם (Shalem).
We all prefer love to fighting–that’s not a sectarian/partisan issue. But as Shlomo HaMelech taught us, (עֵת מִלְחָמָה וְעֵת שָׁלוֹם (קהלת ג:ח (Eyt Milchamah v’Eyt Shalom) (Kohelet 3:8), “There is a time for war and a time for peace (wholeness)”. Torah, without the Jewish People to fulfill, love and develop it, has little value. The Jewish People, and that includes the State of Israel, has little value without the Torah.
Both sharing Torah inspirations and fighting for the survival and safety of Israel and The Jewish People are necessary. Neither is sufficient without the other. While I prefer doing one much more than the other, until a point in history where the latter is no longer needed (במהרה בימינו, may it be soon, in our days), I will never quit doing both.