Weekly Sermon

NASO 5781


It’s No Longer About Israel, It’s about Jews!

(with gratitude to R. Benjamin Blech, R. Mitchell Wohlberg, R. Joshua Kunis, Peter Savotnik and Bari Weiss)


The latest war between Israeli and Hamas is now over with the usual results. They shot missiles at Israel and Israel shot them down. Israel destroyed their infrastructure, Israel destroyed their tunnels and made them pay a bitter price. There’s no question Israel won the battle. But it should concern us that Israel may have lost the war—the war for public opinion. Something has changed.

On the concluding part of the Priestly blessing in last week’s Torah portion—V’yaseym l’cha shalom (May Gd grant you peace)—the Midrash adds the strange words: “Peace when you enter, peace when you leave and peace with every man.” The Ktav Sofer explains: “Peace when you enter” means peace in your home, “peace when you leave,” means peace in your country, and “peace with every man” means peace in the world. The Ktav Sofer is telling us that yes, we should all pray for peace. But before we strive for peace in the world, our 1st obligation is to make sure our home is safe. Peace at home always comes 1st.    

Within 3 days after the conflict exploded, the NY Times—along with most of the media—had op-ed after op-ed condemning Israel, but not a single op-ed—while thousands of missiles were falling on Israel’s population centers—not a single op-ed in the American newspaper of record with one positive word about Israel! In fact, during this conflict it advertised that it was looking for a Palestinian analyst!

What none of the op-eds made mention of—none—was that Hamas calls for the destruction of Israel, that Hamas calls for the destruction of Jews—me and you—that Fatah, led by Mahmoud Abbas, has refused to sit down and even negotiate with Israel, that Israel has offered peace plans by Perez and by Rabin and by Olmert and at Camp David and on and on. Let me ask you, have you ever heard of a Palestinian peace plan???

No, you’ve heard about “disproportionate responses.” Well, thank Gd, Israel is strong enough that if it’s attacked by terrorists, it’ll be able to give a disproportionate response because it’s entitled to have peace in its homes. Remember, Israel is fighting a very difficult enemy. The Palestinians are not led by a Nelson Mandela, a Dr. Martin Luther King jr., or a Mahatma Ghandi. They’re led by murderers! And so Israel will do anything and everything to make sure its people find peace in their homes.

My friends, as I said before, something has changed. We’re used to seeing pro-Palestinian protestors on the streets of London, Paris and Brussels. We saw them last week when pro-Palestinian protesters threw an explosive device into a crowd of Jews in New York’s Diamond District. We also saw them last week when 2 men were attacked outside a bagel shop in midtown Manhattan. Again, we saw them last week, at a sushi restaurant in West Hollywood, when a group of men draped in keffiyehs asked the diners who was Jewish, and then pummeled them. And in a parking lot not far away, when 2 cars draped in Palestinian flags roared after an Orthodox man fleeing for his life. And in the story of the American soccer player Luca Lewis, cornered by a band of men in New York demanding to know if he was a Jew. Andrew Yang, former would be candidate for president, now running for mayor of NYC, had to retract his pro-Israel statement because of pressure—this in very Jewish NYC! 

Something has gone wrong. Perhaps a hint can be found in this week’s Torah portion, which contains one of the strangest incidents in the Torah. The Jews complained about the food—nothing really new about that. What’s strange is that they were complaining about, “the fish, the meat, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic they said they received in Egypt for free.” Really!? That never happened. What made them say this? 

The Torah (Num. 11:4) introduces this incident by telling us that: “The rebel rousers that was among them felt a lusting and then the Israelites also wept and said, ‘Who will feed us meat?’” The problem started with the rebel rousers, the Eruv Rav, the mixt multitude—the former Egyptians who joined the Jews in the Exodus. They started complaining and soon more and more Jews wept along with them.

It starts small with some loud-mouthed protestors, anti-Semites and Jew-haters. And then the message gets mixed in with the rest of the people. My friends, we always had the likes of a Louis Farrakhan with his ugly anti-Semitism. Now it has grown into the Black Lives Matter Movement throwing their weight behind the Palestinians. There’s always the likes of a Roger Waters, co-founder of Pink Floyd, who are viciously anti-Israel. But these were lone voices. Now it’s John Oliver and Trevor Noah and many others who have turned against us.

It used to be Uncle Bernie and Elizabeth Warren we had to worry about. We treated them like a lone voice that no one was listening to. But now former friends like Senator Robert Menendez and Jewish Congressman Jerry Nadler join with Israel’s critics. It used to be AOC and her Squad. Now the Squad has turned into a mob!

And most painful for me is that, as thousands of missiles rained upon Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, 100 students from the rabbinical colleges of the Conservative and Reform movements signed a public letter accusing Israel of apartheid and calling on American Jewish communities to, “hold Israel accountable for the violent suppression of human rights!”

We didn’t fight back much to these kind of things in the past thinking, “It’s only a handful.” But while we weren’t paying attention, the handful has turned into a multitude! When model Bella Hadid spoke out against Israel, we dismissed it as a lone voice in the wilderness. We didn’t realize she has 50 million followers on Instagram! A few have mixed with the many and their voices are growing stronger. It’s upsetting and it’s depressing.

Even Moses couldn’t handle the complaints. So, in our parsha, Gd told him to gather 70 leaders who would speak to the people and tell them the truth. Are we going to be smart enough to do the same? It starts with a few, but it can grow into many. We have the few. We have wonderful organizations like AIPAC, CAMERA, Honest Reporting, and the Flame. But are they reaching the masses? Do you even know who they all are?

I sent a link 2 weeks ago from AIPAC urging people to write to their Congressman and Senators. All you had to do was click on the link and fill out a small form and press “send”—less than 5 minutes. Tell the truth. How many of you did it? We have to make sure that our few turns into many. And for that to happen it depends on each and every one of us.

A fundamental truth about the war against Israel can be summed up in one sentence: When approached by a student who attacked Zionism, Dr. Martin Luther King responded, “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews—and you’re talking antisemitism!”

The most fundamental lie about the countless op-eds, vicious social media entries and critiques of Israeli policy is that its hatred is directed towards Israel…when it has become ever more abundantly clear that the detested object of scorn remains the same as it has for thousands of years—Jews!

The ADL recently found on Twitter more than 17,000 mentions of “Hitler was right!” Again, Palestinian sympathizers viciously beat up Jews in Times Square. Diners in Los Angeles were asked by a raging mob of Hamas flag bearers, “Are you a Jew?” It was the same in major cities around the world. None of the victims were asked if they were Israelis. All that mattered was that they were Jews.

Isn’t it strange that at a time when someone is accused of being racist can in an instant cause a person to lose his or her job and be banned from social media, but identification with Hamas which openly calls for a 2nd Holocaust is viewed as a moral stance deserving of approval?

My friends, this is no longer just about Israel. It’s come to the streets of America. It’s about being a Jew. Now what are we going to do about it? Amen! 

Urge your Senatorsand members of Congress to stand with Israel. Here's the AIPAC link to easily accomplish that in only a minute: https://p2a.co/u9jbbtK.



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