Selected Sermon/Article
2002-07-07 Pesach Sermon by Rav Ze'ev Smason
Israel in Crisis
Drasha Shimini Shel Pesach Yizkor 2002 "Israel in Crisis"

From the time that I was a child, one of the highlights of my Pesach Seder has been singing the 'Dayanu.' Dayanu - which means, in English -- 'it would have been enough,' is the refrain in the well known poetic song found in the Haggada. We list the miracles that the Almighty performed for our ancestors, and after each act of kindness we say 'Dayanu' -- it would have been enough.

This Pesach, I'd like to offer a slight variation of the traditional 'Dayanu' song. And if you'll grant me a slight bit of liberty in the translation of the word 'Dayanu,' we'll understand this term to mean 'that's enough,' rather than 'it would have been enough.' Ready? Here goes.

When the PLO was founded in 1964, a time when there was not one Jewish settlement in the "territories," nor any Jewish "occupation," we should have said 'Dayanu' -- that's enough.

When the PLO slaughtered Israel's Olympic delegation in Munich in 1972, we should have said 'Dayanu' -- that's enough.

When the PLO outlined its "phased plan" to destroy Israel in 1974, we should have said 'Dayanu' -- that's enough.

When Arafat supported Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War of 1991, and Palestinians danced on their rooftops as Scuds rained on Tel Aviv, we should have said 'Dayanu' -- that's enough.

When a few months after signing the Oslo agreements in 1993, Yasser Arafat called on the Muslim world to wage "jihad" and compared the agreements to a treaty Muhammad once made and then abrogated, we should have said 'Dayanu' -- that's enough.

When Yasser Arafat told president Bill Clinton at Camp David that there never was a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, we should have said 'Dayanu' -- that's enough.

When PA-controlled television featured children singing "when I wander into Jerusalem, I will become a suicide bomber," we should have said 'Dayanu' -- that's enough.

When the Palestinians rejected Ehud Barak's offer at Camp David and unleashed their orchestrated campaign of terror, we should have said 'Dayanu' -- that's enough.

When two Israeli reservists were savagely lynched at a Palestinian police station in Ramallah, we should have said 'Dayanu' -- that's enough.

When Arafat said, in January and February 2002, "With our souls and blood, we redeem you O Palestine. Jihad, jihad, jihad, jihad. We are going to Jerusalem ....martyrs in the millions," we should have said 'Dayanu' -- it's enough.

When we saw that the toll of persons killed during these first days Pesach this year through suicide bombings was over 40 -- including over 20 individuals who were sat down to have a Pesach seder in Netanya, we should have said 'Dayanu' -- that's more than enough.

It's been clear and obvious since the founding of the PLO in 1964, that Yassar Arafat is a terrorist, the PLO is a terrorist organization, the Palestinian Authority is a front for terrorist activity, and that the desire and goal of the majority of Palestinians is to eliminate every trace of a Jewish presence from the Middle East.

As we sit here in shul today on Shimini Shel Pesach, and prepare for Yizkor, Israel is locked in turmoil, violence and war. We must assert the right and responsibility of every nation to protect its citizens. We should fully support Israel's 'Operation Defensive Shield,' and hope that it truly aims to eliminate the terrorist infrastructure that is one of the primary obstacles to peace.

It's not enough, however, to 'hope.' It's also not enough to wring our hands and sigh at the daily reports of a situation that goes from bad to worse. I'd like to propose that we as a congregation undertake the following 5 steps, in response to what Prime Minister Sharon has called a 'war,' in Israel.

1) There was a community rally for Solidarity with Israel that took place here in St. Louis a week ago Sunday. Tehillim were said. The Midwest General Counsel of Israel spoke. Over 500 Jews from our city -- including many members of NHBZ -- gathered together to pray and support Israel. To those of you here today who participated, I give you a yashar koach. To those of you who weren't there, I ask you the following question; why weren't you with us? We know that when Jews gather together to pray for Israel, that it makes a difference. Please participate in upcoming community events in support of Israel.

2) Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel has ordered all yeshivot and religious elementary schools to cut short their Passover vacation and open their doors this coming Sunday. (Most yeshivot in Israel have a month off for Pesach vacation).Rabbi Yosef said "The whole country is in trouble, and we should go out on trips?! "This is a call to 'reserve duty' for all yeshiva students."

While few of us here this morning are yeshiva students, Rabbi Yosef added that everyone should 'enlist in their own army in their own ....synagogue.' "Shall your brothers go out to war, and you sit here?"

To that end, I propose that each of us make it a point to attend one Torah class or study Torah for one additional hour per week.

3) As you noticed immediately before the Torah reading this morning, we introduced something new. A letter sent by the Orthodox Union to our shul, in conjunction with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, has asked us to immediately undertake that each time the Sefer Torah is removed from the Aron Kodesh for Kriat HaTorah, the tefilla "Av HaRachamim Hu Yeracheim Am Amusim" should be recited aloud responsively. We've been asked to continue this through Shevous, and it's something that I propose that we accept upon ourselves as a congregation both on Yom Tov, Shabbos, and the weekdays that the Torah is read.

4) Israel is fighting a war by land and air. A battle that is, perhaps, even more challenging, is the war of public relations. Israel faces constant condemnation by the United Nations and the European Union, and ongoing denunciation in the world and even the American press.

While we appreciate that President Bush has taken a positive stand in support of Israel, we must also realize that every phone call, fax, and e-mail is tallied sent to the White House is tallied.

The other side is making their voice heard loud and clear. Please contact the White House at least once a week. It will make a difference.

5) Our High Holiday prayers are filled with references to the efficacy of tzedaka (charity) as a means of 'tearing up the evil decree'. Today at Yizkor, it's a particularly appropriate time to pledge generously to the shul in remembrance of your beloved relatives, and as a merit for our brethren in Israel. I'd like to ask you to earmark in your Yizkor pledge a donation above and beyond what you normally might give this Pesach. Earmark that tzedaka for the merit of those in Israel who are surrounded by violence and turmoil. It will make a difference.

In the Haggada we said, "Sh'bchol dor v'dor, omdim alaynu l'kalosaynu" -- In every generation, the rise against us to annihilate us. "V'Hakadosh Boruch Hoo, matzilanu mee'yadam" -- The Holy One Blessed Be He, however, saves us from their hand."

Our enemies have risen against us, as they have throughout the centuries. Let us commit ourselves to (as was said)

1) Participation in public rallies for Israel

2) Increasing our study of Torah

3) Adding the new prayer during our Torah reading

4) Phoning, faxing and writing the White House and news agencies

5) A generous tzedaka pledge today, at Yizkor