Selected Sermon/Article
2000-10-08 Kol Nidrei Drasha by Rav Ze'ev Smason
Are We on the Verge of War?
The Ultimatum has been delivered. Within the past 24 hours, Prime Minister Ehud Barak gave the Palestinians and Yassar Arafat an ultimatum to end the violence, or face a declaration that the peace process is dead, and that "all means at Israel's disposal" will be used to restore order.

Unlike 27 years ago, when no one but the Arabs knew what was coming and when, tonight the feeling that we're on the verge of war, if not already involved in it, is palpable. The Tomb of Joseph in Nablus was trashed, ransacked and burned. The Har HaBais, the Temple Mount is in full control of Arab security personnel and PLO policemen. It's open season on Jewish citizens in Israel from the youths with rocks and slingshots lining the streets of the administered territories, from snipers on the rooftops of surrounding Arab villages and from the 40,000 member Palestinian police force. Most predictably, the United Nations passed a resolution condemning Israel for the use of excessive force against Palestinians, calling upon Israel, which it termed 'the occupying power", to "abide by it's legal obligations and it's responsibilities." The response of our longtime friend and ally, the United States? The United States abstained.

Memories of the 1973 Yom Kippur War when 2,700 Israelis were killed, haunts us this Kol Nidrei evening. We wait with baited breath for the hope of happier, quieter news upon the conclusion of Yom Kippur...but the gnawing, dreadful feeling is: we've entered into a new stage of the Peace Process, and the hostilities will continue to escalate.

The state of Israel, far from being a solution to anti-Semitism, has become a lightening rod to which Anti-Semitism can legitimately attach itself. We find ourselves today in a world that in large part, is too embarrassed to be openly anti-Semitic, so the feelings remain but the name has changed to anti-Zionism. Anti-Zionist rallies of up to 500,000 people have taken place within the past 48 hours in Morocco, Egypt, Iran, Iraq and Denmark, with the burning of Israeli flags and random violence against Jewish citizens on the streets of many countries, including the United States. Far from being the end of anti-Semitism, the state of Israel and the desire of it's citizens to live there peacefully has become just one more excuse for the perpetuation of 'the longest hatred'...anti-Semitism.

I can't begin to tell you, ladies and gentleman, how deeply I regret having to speak about what's taking in place in Israel on this Kol Nidrei evening. But by the same token, I feel an obligation as your rabbi to share with you my feelings about what it is that's taking place in Eretz Kadshanyu, with the lives of so many who are so precious to us at stake. More importantly, I feel that's it's my obligation to tell you what it is I believe that we can do to help.

If you've heard anyone say within the past 48 hours that 'Fighting has Broken Out in the Middle East", and you haven't screamed at this deliberate, politically correct attempt to surreptitiously lay the blame for the conflict at the foot of Israel, then you're a participant in the plot, as well. There are very few wars that 'break out' spontaneously, as Charles Krauthammer wrote in a recent column -- and certainly not this one.

Does anyone believe that Ehud Barak, who went to Camp David and offered the Palestinians peace terms of breathtaking generosity, would be starting a war? Does anyone believe that the most dovish government in Israeli history, just inches away from concluding a permanent peace, and prepared to relinquish Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, would initiate gun battles?

Arafat's rejection of Barak's offer at Camp David led to a pattern we've seen repeatedly since the beginning of the intifada in 1987; resort to violence to gain the initiative, and most importantly, mint new underage martyrs -- on world television- to regain the international sympathy he forfeited by turning down peace.

The doves are stunned. Avraham Burg, speaker of the Israeli parliament and one of the architects of the Labor government's bend-over-backward peace proposals, said, "Do we really understand what's going on? After everything was given, there are still demands on the other side" Burg continues, "Suddenly we discovered that what we mean by peace -- which is mutual reconciliation -- is not being met by the other side."

Suddenly? Where has he and the others who are surprised at the recent turn of developments been for the past 7 years, since the Oslo accord? In the past 7 years Arafat has built his 'police force' into a 40,000 man army now unleashed on Israel. Seven years during which the PLO controlled television, radio, newspapers and children's textbooks inculcated in his people an anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism so virulent that it has succeeded in producing a new generation bred on reflexive hostility to Israel. Seven years in which Arafat has repeatedly called for a 'jihad' for Jerusalem.

The meaning of the current fighting, ladies and gentlemen, is a war for Jerusalem. This is NOT, what the American press calls, an 'expression of Palestinian frustration' 99 per cent of Palestinians live under the rule of Yassar Arafat. Barak has conceded virtually the entire West Bank, so there's no room for 'frustration' over territory. And lest someone claim that the Palestinians are frustrated over political subordination, Barak offered full recognition of the first independent Palestinian State in history.

Arafat demands ownership of our holy of holies: Jerusalem, and the Temple Mount Emboldened by an American administration that has refused to call him to accountability for starting this war, or for repeatedly violating his single obligation under Oslo: the renunciation of violence, Arafat is prepared to sacrfice as many of his own people as it takes to get it. Preferably, on CNN.

The nations of the world -- the Palestinians and Arafat included -- have no shortage of explanations for the way they feel about us, and the way they treat us. There's religious anti-semitism (AS) ; there's racial AS; there's economic AS. They've hated us because we were too involved in their societies, and they've hated us because of our choseness and separateness. All the 'reasons' they offer, however, are really simply 'excuses.

Before we speak about what we can do for the situation in Israel, I'm going to share with you the real reason for AS - the reason why AS has differed qualitatively and quantitatively than any other type of hatred, prejudice and discrimination that the world has ever seen.

"Why,", the Talmud asks, "did God give the Torah on a mountain named 'Sinai?'" The Talmud answers with a play on words (can you think of any Hebrew word that sounds a lot like the word 'Sinai'?). "Sinah." Hatred. Sinah isn't spelled the same as Sinai, but it has the same root. God gave the Torah on a mountain named Sinai because from that point on, "Sinah,", hatred, was aroused against the Jews by the rest of the world. With the arrival of the Torah came the arrival of hatred.

Now, I realize that what I've just said may be surprising to some of you, and you may be asking yourself, "I've never heard THAT reason, as the reason for does he know that that is true?" It's more than interesting, ladies and gentlemen, that the closer you get to rarefied evil, the closer you get to the truth of AS. If you read the writings of the Nazis, of people like Hitler, you'll find that they speak of 'the curse of the conscience' that was imposed upon Western man by the Jews. In fact, I'd like to quote you something Hitler, may his name be erased, said, and you'll see precisely what I'm saying. "The Jews,", Hitler wrote, "have inflicted two wounds on mankind -- circumcision on it's body and "conscience" on it's soul. They are Jewish inventions. The war for domination of the world is waged only between the two of us. Everything else is but deception."

What Anti-Semites resent about us, are the ideas we've brought into the world. Ideas such as, the concept of the brotherhood of all men, idea of equality for the weak and the poor, and that man is expected to overcome the natural inclinations of his body, with the inclinations of his soul. In order to manipulate the masses, the leaders of our enemies have many excuses for their hatred of us -- but in their own heart, the reason is: we, the Jewish people, represent the Conscience.

The question is: what can we do? What can we do here in St. Louis, on Yom Kippur, as the battle lines in Eretz Yisrael have been drawn? When our father Jacob went to wage battle with his arch enemy Esav, he prepared in 3 ways. First, Yakov prepared for war. The IDF, and Israeli security forces are armed and ready...but does anyone really believe that the marvelously trained and courageous Israeli soldiers, on their own, can hold off a potential onslaught of the 10's of millions of Arabs, the wrath of the nations of the world, and the apathy of our so-called friends? I don't, and I hope you don't either. The second stage of Jacob's preparation was through negotiations. Modern day Jacob has been negotiating with Modern day Yishmael for a decade and a half. The very architects, themselves, of the Peace Process negotiations seem prepared at this moment to say 'Kaddish' on Camp David and Oslo. The final step of Jacob's preparation for his momentous encounter was through.....prayer. Do you believe that prayer works, ladies and gentlemen? Do you believe that God listens to our prayers, and answers us in a time of need. If you do...and even if you're not sure if you do...the time has come to pray. Over the course of the next 24 hours, we're presented with the opportunity to pray for the safety and welfare of Achaynu Beis Yisrael. Tshuva can be a form of prayer that can certainly benefit those who are on the front lines, as well. What are we prepared to change today, as we greet Yom Kippur? What personal committments have we made....or, what personal committments can we make, if for no other reason that in the merit of our prayers and our tshuvah, when we tune into the news upon the conclusion of YK, we can hope to hear good news, rather than the dreaded news we're half expecting? Can each of us, right now, consider and decide that we're not going to leave Yom Kippur, without having come up with an idea and a plan to take at least one small step to be a better Jew this year?

It's up to us to help to the degree that we can. Tshuva, tefilla, and tzedaka destroy the evil decree. The time has come to act.