I am truly amazed at the number of people who have read my last post regarding sending a teen to Israel. I appreciate all of the messages and phone calls I have received thanking me for my words. I also appreciate the messages I have received from those who disagree but have shared their thoughts so respectfully. In addition, I am grateful for the many people who have shared ways that we can help Israel at this difficult time. Local Federations have put together emergency funds as have organizations like Friends of the IDF and The Jewish National Fund. It is so important that we reach out and do something to help Israel right now.
For many American Jews, sending their children to Israel during this military operation is an extremely challenging issue. The reason I chose to share my thoughts openly on my blog is because I feel strongly that our dedication and commitment to Israel is not determined by whether we send our child to Israel during this tense time or wait for things to settle down a bit. There should be no shame or guilt with making a decision to protect a child.
A few people have shared with me pieces of Torah and halakhah that obligate us to travel to Israel no matter what. In response, I share these lines from the Shulhan Aruch:
Wherever there is a potentially life-endangering pitfall or obstacle, it is a positive commandment to remove it, to be on guard against it and to take very good care in the matter, as the Torah says: “Guard yourself and guard your soul.” (Deuteronomy 4:9-10). And if one leaves dangerous pitfalls and obstacles and fails to remove them, he has not fulfilled the positive commandment, while also transgressing the negative commandment of “Do not put blood upon your house” (Deuteronomy 22:8). The Sages prohibited many things that can endanger life. Anyone who violates these and similar prohibitions, saying “What business is it of others if I choose to put myself in danger” or “I am not bothered about such things” is liable to get punished for rebellion against the Sages, while those who are careful will be blessed with good.
(Shulhan Aruch, Hoshen Mishpat427: 8-10).
In response to this, Rabbi Moshe Rivkes, in his commentary Be’er Hagolah , explains:
In my humble opinion the reason why the Torah commands us to guard our lives is because the Holy One, blessed is He, created the world in His kindness to bestow good upon His creations, so that they might recognize His greatness and do His service, fulfilling His mitzvos and Torah, as Scripture states, ‘All that is called in My name, I created for My honor’ (Yishaya 43:7), and to give them reward for their effort. When someone puts himself in danger, it is as if he is rejecting the will of his Creator, as if he desires neither His service nor His reward, and there is no greater dishonor and impudence than this.
Many of our Sages would certainly agree that parents have a responsibility to do everything in their power to protect their children. Different parents will make different decisions. And we must respect each other. If parents choose not to send their children to Israel right now – it does not make them bad Zionists. On the contrary, these parents and their children can help Israel remove the danger there by supporting the Jewish State financially and by speaking about Israel to those in the US – where the bias and propaganda is terrible. And these parents can and will send their children to Israel in the near future.
A few have argued that some Jews still send our children to New York City or Chicago or other places that are “dangerous” – why should we not send them to Israel? I am the first to get upset at people who say, when the status quo prevails in Israel, “Israel is not safe so, instead, we are going to Turkey/Spain/New York/London…..” Israel is safe and secure most of the time. However, right now, most of the country is at risk. One can’t deny this. The Prime Minister has openly stated this. And to condemn parents who don’t want to send their children there now is a terrible thing to do. It only alienates these parents them from Israel and divides the Jewish people. We can’t afford this.
This is not the time to attack each other over how we express our Zionism and Judaism. For those who want to do that, who want to call each other names, who want to insist that there is only one way to be a Jew, who demand that their way of being Jewish and their way of being a Zionist is the only way – you overlook our rich, diverse history. Most importantly, you build walls and borders that divide us. Jewish history teaches us that we are strong when we are unified. Whether we send our children to Israel right now or not. we can ALL STAND STRONGLY WITH ISRAEL.