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Happy 4th! -- CHRONICLE Online/The WORD 07/04/24

Weekly On-line Rabbi's D'var-Torah

July 4, 2024

28 Sivan 5784

Parashat Sh'lach


When it comes to the 4th of July, I’m as guilty as anyone else. I see it as an opportunity to eat barbecue, go swimming and watch fireworks. I don’t give a whole lot of thought to the Declaration of Independence and what this day is really about.


It’s not so different from what happened to Moses and God in the Torah. After leading the Israelites out of Egypt with the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea, God gave Moses the Torah at Mt. Sinai. In addition, God provided the manna in wilderness to nourish the Israelites. If it hadn’t been for the pessimistic reports of the 10 scouts that Moses sent into the Land of Canaan, the Israelites might have already been back in their homeland. They had many reasons to be grateful.


Nonetheless, in this week’s Torah portion, two men named Datan and Eliav said to Moses: “Is it not enough that you brought us from a land flowing with milk and honey to have us die in the wilderness, that you would also lord it over us?” Instead of being grateful for all that God and Moses had done, they still believed that they had it better living in Egypt as slaves. Perhaps, they even wanted to turn back.


We have to be careful not to fall into the same trap as Datan and Eliav. With the rise of antisemitism in this country since October 7th, it’s easy to forget how great this country really is. It’s easy to think that life might be better somewhere else. It’s easy to be ungrateful.


But, that would be a mistake.


The American Jewish community is the second largest in the world today—only Israel’s is bigger. We Jews are well represented in all aspects of American life including the government. Although we have increased synagogue security in recent years, we are free to assemble and worship as Jews. We have many reasons to be grateful.


In the Torah, God was ready to punish all of the Israelites for the behavior of Datan and Eliav. However, Moses and Aaron pleaded with God not to punish everyone because of the behavior of a few individuals.


As American Jews, we must take the same approach. We cannot blame all of America for the antisemitism of a few—no matter how loud and obnoxious they may be. Instead, let us take some time on the 4th of July to appreciate all the blessings we have experienced—and continue to experience—in this country. Then, on the 5th, we can go back to fighting antisemitism and refuting the hate of Israel so that they will not be able to spread beyond the vocal minority.


Happy 4th of July!


Shalom,

RAF.

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