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Solidarity Mission

by Rabbi Steven Lindemann

Libi B’Mizrah V’Anokhi B’Sof Ma-arav - My Heart is in the East and I am in the farthest West

Throughout the recent conflict in Israel, I have reflected upon those words by the 12th-century, Spanish Jewish poet, Yehudah HaLevi. I had hoped to go to Israel for a wedding, but it was cancelled because of rockets from Gaza. Instead, I am leaving for Israel on Sunday for a three-day Solidarity Mission organized by the New Jersey Metro West Federation.

Why? Because, as the sign now in front of TBS says, “We Stand With Israel.”

One of the most powerful ways of demonstrating that is by showing up. While we cannot all do that, I saw an opportunity to go as a representative of our congregation and community. Whenever Israel has been under attack, whether it is by rockets, terrorist bombings, or intifada, we support Israel with prayers, rallies, and donations. We call and e-mail our family and friends.  Our hearts are in the East; our hearts are with our people and our homeland. And when we can, we follow our hearts by going to Israel.

I know that’s where your hearts have been much of the last few weeks. So, what I would like to do is take you with me, in spirit. If you have a prayer you want to send, a thought or message you would like me to carry to the Kotel, e-mail it to me ( I will be at the Kotel on Monday night to recite that prayer or, if it is private, to put it in the Wall. I would be honored to be your Shaliah—your “messenger.”

And that brings me to Torah. Coincidentally, this week’s Parashah is Sh’lah—“Send”—from that same Hebrew root as “messenger.” Actually, what Moses sends is scouts, as representatives of the tribes of Israel. Their mission is to search out the land and bring back a report. Specifically, they are told U-R’item Et HaAretz Mah Hih—See the land and what it is like. But the word “it” in Hebrew is vocalized as Hi (a feminine form, consistent with the word for “land,” in Hebrew); while the written form is Hu (which the Bible uses for God)—הוא. God, of course, is neither masculine nor feminine, but this textual anomaly leads commentaries to suggest that the real mission of the scouts was to see the land as the place that God promised, the Promised Land.

All of the scouts saw the beauty of the Promised Land, and all recognized its very real challenges. However, ten of the scouts did not keep faith with the mission or with God. They came back saying that the Land could never be theirs. Two of the scouts were positive that the promise would be fulfilled. It would take years for that to happen, but eventually the land became home to the People of Israel. Ever since, our Mission has been to keep faith with that promise, whatever the obstacles or challenges. That’s what a Solidarity Mission is all about.

I promise to faithfully represent our congregation and community. I’ll report back when I return.

Fri, June 18 2021 8 Tammuz 5781