a Meaningful Life with Simon Jacobson
Radio Show Transcript - January 7, 2001
Rabbi Simon Jacobson: Good evening and
welcome to another edition of Toward a Meaningful Life. With
this show we begin a new secular year. Its exciting to
continue to receive all your feedback: the invigorating element
that keeps the show going, so keep it coming, whether through
email, regular mail or phone calls.
Tonights topic is a controversial one and
a current event which is long overdue to discuss, and that is
the situation in Israel. I know that many of you probably have
opinions and comments on it, particularly about this most recent
crisis, but in truth, this is really a historical battle thats
been going on since 1948, when the state of Israel was established,
but in truth, its roots go much earlier than that. We
see in the Bible the struggle between the forefather of the
Arab world, Ishmael, and his half-brother Isaac, the ancestor
and forefather of the Jewish people. That classic battle has
been going on throughout history and goes back thousands and
thousands of years.
But what I would like to address is the issue
and state of affairs as it stands today in the state of Israel.
Obviously there are emotions and outrage, speaking
as I am as a Jew, but in truth, every loss of life anywhere
in the world particularly in that region, is a tragedy. For
a Jewish person, the loss of life is sacred whether its
the life of a Jew, the life of a non-Jew, the life of an Arab,
the life of a Moslem.
There is a powerful statement in the Talmud regarding
this. When the Jews left Egypt, the Egyptians pursued them.
The Egyptians changed their minds and regretted allowing the
Jews to leave, and they pursued them all the way to the Red
Sea. When the miracle of the Red Sea took place and the Egyptians
were drowning, the Jews began singing songs of praise, seemingly
a legitimate acknowledgment of G-d. It says in the Talmud that
G-d says at that moment, My children are drowning and
youre singing praise?
In other words, G-d rebuked them for singing praises
at a time when people were dying. Now the Egyptians were clearly
at fault: they had held a nation in bondage and had murdered
themessentially a genocideand they couldnt
even tolerate allowing the Jews to leave, so they clearly deserved
to be killed. Yet at the same time, the sensitivity to life
remains, and we never gloat or celebrate when our enemieseven
our deserved enemieshave died.
So when you talk about death in general, its
important to emphasize, and I emphasize this as a Jew, that
any loss of life is a tragedy.
Now you have this conflict which, for Americans,
is very difficult to really understand because its not
just political, its something that is deeply ingrained
and very deep-rooted. Essentiallyand I do speak in a biased
fashion because I am Jewishyet at the same time I am trying
to think of this in a light that brings peace to all people.
Since the time that Israel was established as a state in
1948, there have been several wars, and in every instance it
was a defensive war for the Jews who were trying to protect
their own little territory that was given to them.
After the 1967 War, where Israel was again on
the defensive (Nassar, the president of Egypt at the time, had
mobilized armies, closed the Suez Canal, etc. Anyone familiar
with the facts knows what the circumstances were. Israel then
captured the Sinai Desert and captured what was then known as
the West Bank (which is really called Yehudah and Shomron).
There was a piece of land called the East Bank which was separated
and given to Jordan (Transjordan at the time). I remember being
in Israel in 1971, and it was quite peaceful. There was no what
we call intifada, no violence. You were able to walk into the
Moslem section in the Old City of East Jerusalem without any
So essentially its only in the last 10-15
years that theres been an uprising, what they call intifada,
a violent uprising of what is being labeled as the Palestinian
uprising for their right to their homeland. This essentially
has pitted the Jews against what they call the Palestinians.
I must say, that when you look at the P.R., especially in the
United States, the media war is just as great as the war on
the streets, because images are being painted that affect how
we see the situation.
I was always shocked at the fact that after the
67 War took place officials in the Israeli government
offered back the land for peace. The 67 War was one in
which the Israelis had conquered the land under the laws of
wara defensive wara land that had not given them
the equal right to worship at the Western Wall. If you look
at the photographs of the Wall prior to the war, it had essentially
been turned into a slum and garbage dump, and Jews were not
allowed to easily worship there. Since 1967, the Israelis have
bent over backwards to give equal ability for Christians and
Moslems and Jews to worship at their respective sites.
After the war there was an immediate offer on
the part of the Jews to return land to the Arabs (I dont
know if they were called Palestinians at the time), whatever
the name was. On a practical level, I was once asked to speak
for a group of American politicians, and they asked me to represent
the Lubavitcher Rebbe, whom I was a student of, his opinion
and his standwhich was a very strong oneagainst
They were very surprised that I didnt present
the views in a religious, Biblical, or Messianic context but
in a very practical one: which was, that when you go into business
negotiations and you know you want to offer a million dollars
for a particular business, you dont begin by saying, Here,
Im ready to give you a million dollars. You say
half a million. And the other party says 3/4 of a million, etc.,
etc. Thats the art and skill of negotiation.
The fact of the matter is, when the Cold War was
going on between the former Soviet Union and the United States,
and there were issues of lowering the number of nuclear warheads/ballistic
missiles, no one suggested, for instance, that the United States
give up the state of Alaska and the Russians should cut their
arsenal by 50 percent. Why? Because you reciprocate in kind.
The fact that the Israelis offer land for peace is unprecedented
in history. The United States did not do that with France, with
England, with the Native Americans. Any land conquered in war,
even unjustified, was never just returned for a promise of anything.
So the fact is, even on a very practical secular
level, even if someone had in mind to return a piece of land
to begin the negotiations saying, Here is a piece of land
and in return, we want you to sign a paper of good faith,
in a volatile region like that, it is essentially quite insane.
No human being would do that with his home, and no one would
do that with anything that they conquer in a defensive war.
So far Im turning the clock back; Im
not even talking about how things are today. But once that Pandoras
Box opened, theres no return. Because if I know that I
can get land, and by holding out I can get more and more and
more, where do you draw the line? Furthermore, in negotiations,
there is always a place where you have to be able to say, Im
leaving. I am not negotiating any further. Heres the line
that I draw in the sand.
I find it fascinating that the Jewish people,
and again Im saying this as a Jew, bend over backwards
to open up what goes on in Israel to the media. I remember in
the Persian Gulf War back in 1991, there was a total blackout.
And in America, which is the capital of the media world, we
had no idea what was going on there. Why was there a blackout?
Because its obvious that public opinion and the spin
as they say of the media has a direct impact on pressure and
doesnt allow an army to do what it has to do.
So that Israelis should be so open and democratica
trait of the Jewish people that they always bend over backwards
and create their own double standardin many ways is infuriating.
In a sense, the problems that exist today, and I can unequivocally
say that this is my opinion, are a result of the Jews
own shooting themselves in the back.
First of all, opening up the Pandoras Box
of offering a piece of land, real estate, an irreversible act
for the promiseeven if it was a completely sincere promise;
still a promise which can only be backed up on paper and you
have no idea whether or not their children or grandchildren
will honor itis absolutely unprecedented.
I think that once you opened that doorand
you see it in the historical events of what is going on in Israel
todayit created a demand: Oh, youre ready
to offer that? So well be violent and use other terrorist
methods, and we can demand more and more and more.
And I dont see where one draws the line
until you actually unequivocally state it. And with all thats
been going on with the deaths and murders, affecting families
in an unprecedented way, the threat in Israel at the same time,
no one is still ready to say, heres where we draw the
I hear today that Prime Minister Barak said that
he will not sit in negotiations until there is a lowering of
violence. Now what does lowering of violence mean? That one
less gun is shot?
It seems to me that everyone is sort of stuck
in a certain type of waffling and pandering in this peace process,
which Im sure has a lot to do with money (and has not
been discussed in the media), with the United States giving
billions of dollars both to the Israelis and the Palestinians,
so theres a certain investment, so to speak, to keep this
peace process alive, because it has to do with dollars
But the bottom line is that regarding this issue,
there are the symptoms and there is a root. I have no doubt
that theres resentment from anyone who lived in Israel
prior to 1948 when Jews began immigrating there and living on
different pieces of the land. Yes, its very possible that
people were uprooted. But thats not an uncommon thing
First of all, the Jews, historically, have been
living in Israel since the beginning of time. Even after the
Holy Temple was destroyed, there was always a community, perhaps
not as large as it is today in the last few hundreds years,
but Jews always had a presence there. Israel is the holy land
of the Jewish people, as stated in the Bible, and Jews never
gave up that right and never left the land.
Its a natural thing that after the Holocaust
and after the wars that were fought, and in a more democratic
environment, more Jews would turn to the place that they originated
from. So its natural. Its like saying neighborhoods
in New York were once Irish and then other people moved in;
its true that the Irish people were resentful originally,
but thats how life worksthat theres sometimes
And the Israelis did not do it by murdering
anybody. They did it in a way, its true, that the
numbers were stacked, but the fact of the matter is, this was
a large region of many Arab peoples, and there wasnt such
a thing as Arabs that were called Palestinians.
If you look at history, there was no such word
as Palestinian before 1948. They lived in that region. Jews
lived there and there were Arabs that lived there. So the question
of where they should move is a practical question that everyone
has to deal with. I still do not minimize the pain of anyone
who is being displaced. I think what happened was, once the
Jews became a presence there, the old animosity of the Jews
Remember, the Jews were under Islam rule for many
yearsthe Turkish Empire and so on. And then suddenly the
Jews came into control, which brought up many, many deep-felt
sentiments and anger and so forth.
But the bottom line is that the violence being
directed against Israel, the call for its destruction (which
still remains in the Palestinian mandate, and definitely in
their consciousness and their propaganda and psychology), is
something that has never been changed. And where do you see
a changing attitude where you can say, Okay, we gave land
and heres the peace. I dont think that anyone
expects that by the Israelis giving up a certain piece of landthe
Temple Mountthe entire Palestinian community in Israel
would suddenly make a u-turn and say begin to sincerely love
Jews and love Israel, I dont think anyone, even the most
liberal person, would suggest that. At best its damage
So I think you have to call a spade a spade, and
be realistic about the situation and the expectations, even
the most optimistic ones.
I definitely dont want this show to become
another part of the propaganda machine. I think theres
a lot of media slant going on and even though I acknowledge
that Im Jewish, and therefore Im pro-Jewish, by
no means do I think that the life of a Palestinian man, woman,
or child in any way is negligible; on the contrary, I think
that perhaps with some suggestions that Id like to make,
which may be realistic or not, it can create a situation where
peace, shalom, peace for all people is something that
the Jews have always aspired topeace means not just peace
for Jews but peace also for Arabs, so everyone can live in peace.
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Jacobson: I want to add one more thing,
that is, the history of the Jewish people has been as a docile
nation. We as Jews have always searched and wanted to live and
coexist in peace with our neighbors. You do not find, except
in rare exceptions (and those I want to address as well), that
Jews as a people turn into vigilantes and to terrorists, nor
are they the aggressors in the wars they fought.
Essentially, they have always fought defensive
wars, even if you go back to the beginning of history. In the
Bible, it says that the Jews entered the land of Israel and
they went to war to reclaim their land. This was a land that
was legally owned by them, and the fact that they were in Egypt
in bondage, in slavery, in no way minimized or compromised their
right over that land.
In that sense, they had complete right to go in,
and they said clearly, this is our land. They offered the nations
there the opportunity to leave peacefully. It was only those
who didnt want to leave peacefully that they went to war
with. But throughout history, and particularly in the last 2,000
years, youll never find that Jews launched an aggressive
and offensive war.
Just to give an example, I was in Crown Heights
during the Crown Heights riots. An unfortunate incident happened
with a young black child, Gavin Cato who was killed in
an accident. Following that, a mob essentially attacked and
killed a man called Yankel Rosenbaum just because he
was a Jew.
No one in my neighborhood or community, and I
was there that night, considered getting a mob together with
a knife and trying to go kill a black in retaliation. It was
not even a consideration because its just not the personality
of most Jews, and thats part of our history.
The same is true in the Middle East. I say this
in defensebecause you dont hear much about this
in the mediaso I say it here unequivocally and on the
record, that this has always been the attitude amongst Jews,
and its the same attitude in Israel.
The fact is, I remember in 1971there were
millions of Arabs living in Israelthat many of them had
a much higher standard of living than they ever had under any
Its true that the Jews were the majority
and they ruled, but nevertheless, within the Knesset, there
are also Arab seats; the fact of the matter being that it is
essentially run like a democracy, a Socialist democracy perhaps,
but the bottom line is that thats the way its run.
So its ironic that when you behave in that
type of democratic fashion giving the Arabs all these rights
and comforts, and youre treated in return in a Fascist
fashion, youre the one thats accused of being the
Lets go to the phone.
Caller: Yes Rabbi, good evening. George
Will had an article in Newsweek recently concerning President
Clinton and his aggressive moves to move for a peace process
that may in fact be counterproductive for Israel. Can you comment
Jacobson: Can you tell me more about what
he wrote because I didnt read it.
Caller: Well, basically he was implying
that Clinton very much wants to go on record as being a peacemaker,
and hes pushing for a peace that will cause a compromise
Jacobson: But thats been the consistent
policy of the Americans, so whats new?
Caller: The thing that concerns me so much
is that the Jewish population is so democratic and has been
so much in support of Clinton, that it seems like not enough
Jews want to come up and say, You know, theres somebody
in the Democratic party who really is moving in a way that is
really uncaring for Jews but at the same time hes courting
the Jewish vote.
Jacobson: Thank you for the call. In general
I feel that whats going on in Israel is not controlled
by the American government; its controlled by the Israeli
government and the Jews there. Its true that American
Jewry has a strong impact on the support of Israel but
the bottom line is, when there is waffling and a mercurial and
non-committal approach by the Israeli government, no leader
that gets up and unequivocally states a certain approach, its
inevitable that youre going to be pressured and affected
by all sorts of influences around us.
The fact is that the different governments of
the United States all had their different attitudes toward Israel,
but no American government would be able to intervene if the
Israeli government took a certain stand. The problem is that
Israel doesnt have a firm stand.
Frankly, if you asked an average American, if
you asked President Clinton, what is Israels stand, I
have no idea. The stand changes every month. No one ever imagined,
even the Arabs did not imagine a year ago, that there would
be someone who would offer some type of autonomy on the Temple
Mount. It was always said that Jerusalem was completely off-limits.
So that itself is a surprise to almost everyone.
So no one really knows what their stand is, and as long as no
one knows that stand, everyone is going to try to exploit the
situation. And the tragedy continues. Ambiguityin Hebrew
the word sofek, which means doubthas the same gematria
as Amalek, which is the arch-enemy of the Jewish people. Ambiguity
is much worse than making a mistake. Because if you make a mistake,
at least the mistake is a clear one and you learn from your
mistake. But ambiguity creates a vacuum which doesnt allow
for any opinion; people do not know: do they support it, dont
they support it? You cant even say you support a position
when you dont even know what the position is, when its
continuously shifting. And thats part of the great tragedy
Lets go to Cheryl.
Caller: First of all, Im way over
my head on this topic, but I wanted to ask you more from an
academic point of view. I understand some of what you say, and
you speak very eloquently, but I wonder why
you say its
not really a problem between Palestinians and Jews, that its
really an Arab-Jewish problem. And yet I think most people,
at least academically, maybe see it as more of a modern kind
of battle between nation-states, that sort of thing and they
dont really understand or appreciate the full history
So I know that you must have a number of people
that agree with your position, and to me it is the best position
that Ive heard, but academically it just doesnt
cut it because it doesnt deal with it from a more secular
Jacobson: Okay, thanks for the call. My
response to that is that the issue unfortunately in Israel is
not an academic one, its a practical one. Youre
talking about life and death. No ones suggesting that
there be a shared powertheres no country in the
world thats shared by enemies who share control and power.
The United States is controlled by a government that may have
political parties, but its all within the framework of
The Jews are the ones who are in control of that
region of the land. They have bent over backwards to be a democracy
and give equal rights, but at the same time there is a very
deep animosity that exists from Arabs to Jews and vice versa.
The question is, how do you deal with it?
The fact is, the policy of the Jewish people and
the Israeli government is not terrorism and its not built
on violence. The accusation of untoward Israeli violence by
the media that is being used here as a trump card by the media
is completely unfair and its not being accurately reported.
The fact of the matter is, that now, the 40,000 Palestinians
who have been armed by the Israelis sit side by side with them
within the borders of Israel. Should a war break out, G-d forbid,
the danger is much greater today than it ever was. So what did
the Israelis gain from everything that they returned? Lets
speak very practically.
I speak even from a secular point of view. What
have they gained? They didnt gain a lesser threat of war.
If theres less threat of war, its simply that the
Israeli government and the Israeli army is a very powerful one,
so its a deterrent for anyone to attack them.
But its not because their neighbors have
any less animosity or are less their enemies than before. So
what did they gain from anything that theyve given away?
Now, if you had ever given up something to get
something, and you didnt get what was promised in return,
you have to stand up and say that a big mistake was made. You
have to say, I should never have given it and I dont
know if I can take it back, but I definitely am not going to
But the tragedy is that the ambiguity continues.
From my perspective, Israel is in desperate need of a true leader.
Leaders both in America and in Israel, and everywhere have become
panderers and media expertsbasing important strategic
decisions on what their standing in the polls will be. You need
a leader: a leader who makes strong decisions when necessary
that are not based on public opinion but on whats right
for the countrys best interests. Decision that are nor
short term band-aids that are safe and make everyone feel good
for the moment, but long term ones. A visionary leader who sees
the big picture and plans accordingly. Whether we agree or disagree
with Truman dropping the atom bomb, the fact that he had to
struggle with the issue of dropping the bomb, knowing that it
would be killing hundreds of thousands of people and maiming
so many more, or allowing WWII to continue with the estimates
of even more people dying; nevertheless, he had to do make a
decision, a real decision that killed more people than any gun
But the justification was that if the war would
have continued, many more people would have died. But that was
the decision he had to make. And he had to rise to the occasion
when there was a decision to be made; he couldnt remain
ambiguous. He couldnt say, lets buy time and see
what happens. He had to make a quick decision.
Unfortunately, Israel, the Middle East, is in
a state of war, a state of siege. In a state of war, ambiguity
is disastrous. We need a leader who will get up and make a decision
and state clearly: this is what I want to do. And the decision
in my view should be one of strength because people respond
I think Americans make a big mistake: they think
that Arab populations are like Americansif you give them
the Internet and McDonalds and a few other American luxuries,
theyre going to become like us. But they have a different
culture, a different attitude, and we have to respect that.
They dont have to be Americans. Actually, its quite
arrogant and condescending for Americans to think that the Arab
nations will become American if you Americanize them. They are
who they are. They have their deep-rooted tribal attitudes,
which are very different from ours. And knowing their psychology
is extremely vital in determining how to deal with them as well.
Lets go to Sonia on the line.
Caller: Hello Rabbi. Im very touched
and Im happy that somebody like you comes out and talks
about what Im saying: we the Jewsno matter Democrats,
Republicans, businessmen or just common peoplewe must
understand that we must take care of Israel. And Im saying
that from now on, everybody should donate $50-$100 to their
synagogue to send to Israel to help the people and it must be
to hit back.
There is no mercy; there is no saying because
of this or that. Its our land. We went through such a
Holocaust, such a killing. I wish we would have had an Israel
at that time to go somewhere. So much blood and our chalutzim,
our parents, our cousins, whoever was there built that country.
Now the Arabs come, they call themselves Palestinians.
I come from Poland. When I was a little girl, I remember the
way the anti-Semites would say Je dufte peshiva marchta Palestina.
That means, Lousy Jew, go to Palestine. Palestine
was the Jewish Palestine. We do have it and we shouldnt
give it away because if they do, we will not be safe in any
place. Just the way the Irish came from their country, the French
from France, the Germans from Germany, this is ours and we come
to visit or live there; its our country and we must fight
for it, and we cannot let them negotiate because President Clinton
is today a few more days and then goodbye.
Jacobson: Thank you very much Sonia. Im
sure your sentiments and feelings reflect many of the listeners
and I appreciate your call.
We go to Ira.
Caller: Good show. I have three quick questions
that will take a lifetime to answer:
1. Why are the Jews hated so much all over the world? 2. I just
dont understand this land for peace. We are
the stronger nation and the so-called Palestinians are very
weak. I just dont get it. I just dont understand
why theres a problem. We have so much strength. My third
question is, all those other Arab countries were formed in the
1920s, 30s, and 40s, why was this one particular area of land
known as Palestine not made into a country before this? Why
was this left for last, and all the other areas beside that
had become countries under Arab rule?
Jacobson: Thank you for your call. Regarding
your first question about why Jews are so hated, Rashi (1040-1105CE),
the foremost Biblical commentary, says that its a known
thing that theres a certain animosity that the nations
have for the Jewish people. There have been many books written
on the analysis of it; some say because theyre the conscience
of the world and people want to kill the conscience. Jews stand
The fact of the matter is, the major religions
of this world are all based on Judaism. Its strange because
Jesus, whose teachings are the basis of Christianity
(for over a billion people on this earth), would not have been
allowed in many country clubs in this country were he alive
because hes Jewish. And so its a strange irony to
me that you can worship a Jew as G-d, and at the same time vilify
the people that he comes from.
But I guess there are many things that can be
discussed, and it deserves another show: the root and psychological
and subconscious causes for anti-Semitism. The fact of the matter
is, going back to Biblical times, there were a certain two nations
at war with each other: Ishmael (the father of the Arab world)
and Isaac (the father of the Jewish world). And perhaps thats
the way G-d wants it to be until the Messianic Age when there
will be peace within the entire world. That doesnt mean
that we have to feed into it and we have to necessarily add
to it, it just means that there is something deeper rooted.
The issue that were discussing on this show
is: What do we do practically under the circumstances? Im
advocating a position of strength, a lack of ambiguity, where
you state your position very clearly and do not budge from it,
which unfortunately has not been the Israeli attitude.
About the question of land and peace Ive
addressed already, and I think the other topic has also been
part of the discussion here. I obviously am advocating a position
that comes from a Jewish perspective, but at the same time I
feel this is the way to bring peace to the regionwhich
comes with respect for a strong position. We need to say: where
weve made a mistake, we will not continue to make the
same mistake. You dont give land for peace, you trade
peace for peace. We wont only give you peace, Israel should
say to the Arab population in the country, but well give
you a higher standard of living, well give you a standard
where you can benefit and reap economically in ways that your
cousins and neighbors across the borders cannot.
The truth is, I dont think any type
of effort can eliminate the animosity and the hatred that many
Arabs have for Jews, and perhaps vice versa. But Jews are not
the ones who are being violent here. The Arabs are being violent.
I call them Arabs and not Palestinians because the name Palestinian
is a political one that has been adopted to put Israelis on
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Jacobson: Okay, were back. I definitely
want to extend my condolences and feelings to every lost life
and to the families that are being affected by the situation
Now, theres no question that after WWII,
when the United Nations resolved to partition the part of the
land and give Israel what we call the state of Israel, that
because it was post-Holocaust, there was definitely the sentiment
of dealing with the Jewish problem as they called
it. Even Stalin, a great anti-Semite who murdered millions of
Jews himself, as a Soviet, even he voted for that state.
It always interested me that there was such an
environment that fostered them all to vote for the establishment
of Israel, but I have to say, Israel is not 52 years old. Its
not something that is based on the Balfour Declaration nor on
the events of 1948. Eretz Yisroel, the land of
Israel, is clearly documented in the Bible. As a matter of facta
fascinating little piece of informationit says in the
Bible that when Sarah, the wife of Abraham, passed away, Abraham
went to search for a place to bury her. And he found a place
which is now called the Meorat HaMachpela in the city
of Hebron, which has been in the news so much regarding this
issue. Thats where he bought the plot of land, which he
bought from Efron, the people who owned it at the time. They
offered it to him as a gift but he rejected it as a gift; he
insisted on buying it for money. And the Torah says he bought
it for 400 of the currency at that time. The question is, why
didnt he take it as a gift? The reason was that in international
law, even going back to Biblical times and today, when you receive
something as a gift, you dont have the same legal control
and legal entitlement to it as when you buy it. When you buy
something, its irreversible unless you sell it.
Abraham, anticipating any questions that may ever
rise about ownership of the land throughout history, preempted
any challenge by buying outright the piece of land with his
money. And he buried his wife Sarah there and afterwards he
passed it on to Isaac and to Jacob, and theyre also buried
there. So when you think of it from a legal point of view, there
is a document, a document in the Bible, and no one disputes
that story. Even if you dont consider it sacred from a
secular point of view, its still a document that states
clearly that he bought a piece of land and he bought it for
that particular reason.
Another thing Id like to share is that Rashis
first commentary on the entire Bible begins with a comment on
the verse: In the beginning, G-d created the heaven and the
earth. So Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki) poses the question,
if the Torah was given as a book of laws, it should have been
given as laws: the first law being the law of kiddush hachodesh
which is blessing the new moon (which is actually in the book
of Exodus). So why does the Torah begin, he asks, with the story
You might think that he would give a philosophical
answer; for example, before you accept laws you need to know
that G-d created heaven and earth. But he says something which
is seemingly out of the blue, he says the Bible was written
that way because its in anticipation of the day when the
nations of the world may come and say to the Jewish people,
You are thieves. You have taken away the land of Israel.
So the Bible begins, G-d created Heaven and earth,
and gave different parts of the earth to different nations.
In the beginning the land of Israel did belong to many nations,
but then He took it and gave it to Abraham which is documented
in the Bible. So the entire Bible begins, In the beginning
G-d created Heaven and the earth in anticipation to answering
this question should one day there be someone who will accuse
the Jews of being thieves.
Now how Rashi knew, living in France in the 11th
century, that one day there would be this issue is simply amazing.
But the fact is, he does document it and it is literally what
is happening today in what we call Eretz Yisroel.
Lets take a call. We go to Daniel.
Caller: Hello Reb Simon. Exactly when I
called, you brought out the topic of something I wanted to tell
you about, that at the beginning of the Bibleand I think
that all the world believes in the Bible, right?they will
believe in Rashis commentary that even the Arabs will
believe that the land belongs to the Jews?
Jacobson: Well thats why I just told
it. Maybe your brainwaves had an effect on me so I said what
you were going to say.
Caller: So it will be acceptable by the
Jacobson: I think the world accepts the
Bible and the fact of the matter is, Rashi is a commentator
who wrote this centuries ago.
Caller: Im French also so Im
connected a little bit with Rashi. But anyway, about Jerusalem,
Jerusalem is not mentioned even once in the Koran.
Jacobson: Yes, I hear that.
Caller: So why is it that Jerusalem is
a shrine of the Moslems? Its political; its not
Jacobson: I agree with you. You know, once
the Jews didnt claim that its holy for them then
it would seem a little irrational for them to hold onto it.
But anyway, thanks for your call.
Well go to Charles.
Caller: Hello Rabbi. I just heard you on
the radio for the first time. It seems that what the Arabs are
doing presently is probably very similar to what the Germans
did between the Wars. They figure whatever they can take without
war is fantastic, and after that theyll fight. First they
want to emasculate the Israelis, to bring them into a smaller
population, make them weaker, possibly have the United Nations
come in there. Many people who are over 40 years old remember
the 1967 War, when Nassar told the UN observers to leave, when
he blockaded the Gulf of Aqaba. One more interesting thing that
Arafat did; until recently, his standing in the Arab world was
weak, so he decided instead of making this a political matter,
he made it a religious matter. And by making it a religious
matter, he has the backing of I would say the vast majority
of Moslems. Before that, they figured hes some kind of
Arab no-man and they really didnt care.
Jacobson: Good point. I appreciate that.
Thank you Charles. We go to Abe.
Caller: Rabbi Jacobson. Good evening. I
just want to say something. When we look at how the situation
was before the Declaration of Independence of Israel, the Arabs
had the possibility with the partition plan to get what they
wanted: an Arab state and a Jewish state. But with the loss
of the occasion what happened? Hashem helped the Jews and it
became Israel and they lost. No, I think what Jews are doing
is just bringing back the situation which was before the Declaration
of the Independence of Israel, they are bringing it back today
and I think Arafat is making a big mistake because bezrat
Hashem it will happen today just as it happened then, bezrat
Jacobson: Thank you very much, Abe. I was
just sharing some of the commentaries. You see that the anticipation
of a struggle and the battle thats going on today is not
something new, its something that has been documented
I just want to reiterate that theres no
greater blessing than shalom, peace, because peace creates
an environment where families, communities, people of all backgrounds
and of all races can grow. Instead of focusing on negative energy
and defending themselves and fear of retribution and fear of
murder and war, they can build their lives. This is the greatest
blessing that goes all the way back to the Bible where G-d blesses
and says, Vnosati shalom baretz,
I will give peace to the earth.
Peace is the greatest blessing of all for all
people. Why that is not the priority, when you talk about a
peace process, is that the process has become more important
than the peace, unfortunately. The priority has to be, what
will achieve an environment where people will really be at peace?
Unfortunately, politics have taken over where the argument goes
that if the Israelis continue to negotiate, and they continue
to give, theyll ultimately satisfy the Palestinians and
make them happy.
I doubt that and I dont think anyone would
even suggest that. No one seems to know where to stop. The key
here has to be strength: strength not in an aggressive or violent
way, but in a position that is unequivocal. People will respect
and honor that. The next leader of Israel should be a person
of that caliber and that personality. That person will go down
in history as a true peacemaker precisely because of
his strength and not because of his waffling or his ambiguity.
Lets go to William on the air.
Caller: Hi. I want to talk about Israel.
First of all, the land was given to Jacob, who was also named
Israel, right? You Jews are just two tribes from the twelve
tribes, arent you?
Jacobson: Well yes, the ten tribes were
basically lost, they say.
Caller: Theyre not lost. G-d knows
where they are.
Jacobson: Yes, well I dont!
Caller: Well you dont. Youre
not G-d. My point is, the time when G-d said, I will claim
My children; they are Mine and now is the time. Dont
worry about anything. The Arabs arent going to do anything.
They havent done it since 1948 and they will never do
it again. Do you understand what I mean?
Jacobson: Thank you. Yes I understand,
William. Lets go to Brian.
Caller: Speaking of the lost tribes, Im
calling from Canada.
Jacobson: Youre listening to the
show in Canada?
Caller: Yes actually. Ive been catching
it for the last 3-4 weeks from New Brunswick. The gentlemen
just spoke about the lost tribes. We are the lost tribes over
here, part of us are anyway, Ephraim and Menasseh. And were
all in this together because we have a common G-d at some level,
and I guess I have a question for you, Rabbi. The abomination
that sets up desolation, in your mind, what is that?
Jacobson: What are you quoting?
Caller: Daniel, chapter 12.
Jacobson: Well, what do you think?
Caller: Well, I think its when youre
not able to sacrifice any longer on the Temple Mount.
Jacobson: So then the abomination leads
Caller: Leads to the desolation.
Jacobson: Well, generally speaking, in
the Bible, the Torah does say that when people transgress and
commit abominations against G-d, one of the consequences
is desolation, that we suffer. And even on a psychological level,
when a person is not in touch with their soul, their lives become
more desolate and more lonely, and in many ways filled with
So I think that thats a common experience
throughout history. Lets go to Dorothy.
Caller: Hi Rabbi. I have something to say
on the subject. I lost my parents in the Holocaust. Also siblings
and mishpuchah that I didnt even know. I was 14
years old; an uncle in the United States brought me over here
in 1939. I have a sister on the kibbutz, in Rosh Hanikra, she
lives in Israel on the barbed wire as a kibbutznik. Built the
country, did all kinds of things from the Lebanese borders,
they used to infiltrate the kibbutz. Can you imagine, living
in our homeland under barbed wire? She herself is a former soldier.
Her children and so on and so forth.
I want to say, we used to go to Israel. This year
I lost my husband, but I still went myself, we used to go every
year. Every year Israel let out a certain amount of prisoners.
Also, the Arab countries were letting out their prisoners on
the backs of Israel. Rabbi, politically, the place is
overrun with people that were prisoners.
Jacobson: Thank you and I appreciate your
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Jacobson: Okay, well obviously we could
dedicate a few more shows to this explosive topic, particularly
because it stirs so much emotion and touches peoples lives;
this isnt just a philosophical or academic discussion.
I want to conclude by saying that as a blessing
or a prayer, what we really want is peace. As a Jew I speak
for all peoplesnot just for Jews but for all peoplethat
peace is the greatest blessing, but in order to achieve that
we need to have strength and make decisions that are strong.
Sometimes these decisions are very hard but they will be respected
because they are wise decisions and they respect the environment,
the climate, and the people who live there. One decision that
needs to be made is that land for peace is simply
an unacceptable approach. It hasnt worked. It never would
have worked, but now in retrospect were definitely wiser.
Learning from our mistakes is often the greatest thing that
one person can do.
May there be peace in Israel and peace all over
the world. Youve been listening to Toward a Meaningful
Life with Simon Jacobson. See you again next Sunday.