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February 11, 2011  RSS feed
Rabbinically Speaking

Text: T T T

Concern for stability in Egypt

By RABBI MARC SACK Congregation Rodeph Sholom

I write this on day-nine of the protests in Egypt. Instability, especially in that part of the world, is always cause for concern. Egypt has not exactly been a “friend” of Israel. But they have been a stable partner, often helping bring Israel’s less-cooperative neighbors to the negotiating table.

With the current turmoil in Egypt, and the announcement that President Mubarak will not run for re-election, Israel could find a much less cooperative, or hostile neighbor to it’s south. Israel and we, its supporters, have reason for concern.

At this point, however, we don’t know how this crisis will end. Egypt could become a real democracy. It could build stronger diplomatic and business ties with Israel and other western countries. The glass is neither half-empty nor half-full. It’s just half-way — and it could go in either direction.

As a committed Zionist, I am worried about Egypt becoming another of Israel’s hostile neighbors. But as a religious Jew, I wonder if we’re also seeing part of God’s work in the world. Let me explain.

Jewish liturgy guides us to see God operating in three realms of life: the natural, the moral and the political. In the first prayer before the Sh’ma, we praise God for creating the sun, moon and stars and being the author of creation. Then we thank God for Torah, mitzvoth and for the intellectual ability to learn. After the Sh’ma we thank God for political freedom. We remember that God freed us from the oppression of Egypt and call God, ga-al Yisrael, the Redeemer of Israel.

When I think of God working in recent history, I think of the fall of the Berlin Wall and of the “Iron Curtain,” and the end of apartheid in South Africa. God’s hand is present in those who strive for freedom.

It is far too early to tell, but I wonder if we’re seeing a movement toward freedom for Egyptians and for other peoples in the Arab world. Were democracy to take root in Egypt, it would be a great gift to the people of that country and, I believe, to Israel as well. To me, it would be another sign that there’s a God who cares about the dignity of all His creatures. For the sake of peace, I pray that this is so.

Rabbinically Speaking is published as a public service by the Jewish Press in cooperation with the Tampa Rabbinical Association which assigns the column on a rotating basis.

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