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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2019 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved. 


May 18, 2018  RSS feed
Rabbinically Speaking

Text: T T T

– Living in a paradox

By RABBI JOSH HEARSHEN Congregation Rodeph Sholom

I have a paradox that I would like to unpack and then learn to live with. How is it that I am a Zionist who believes with all of my being in the free, secure and democratic Jewish State of Israel in our ancestral homeland and yet I live in Tampa?

How do I live in a world where my “homeland” feels so un-homely at times? How do I live in a world where I am considered a visitor in my “homeland?” All of these questions are posed by examining the beautiful words in the Passover Haggadah. Every year we conclude the seder with the words


.... ,

........ Next Year in Jerusalem and yet we live outside of Jerusalem and choose to maintain such a life. What are we singing about and what are we doing about those words?

What was it like in 1948 on the first night of Passover? The Holocaust was still fresh in our minds and we were refugees in every meaning of the word. When the seders ended and we sang: Next Year in Jerusalem, did the Jews of the world know that they would be all that closer by the same time next year? How did the Jewish world feel in 1967 when they were so close to Jerusalem that they could almost taste it? How did they feel? Then in 1967 it all came together and we were now able to literally live out the words of the Haggadah and could celebrate together where we were supposed to be celebrating. Jews from all around the world could finally celebrate their Judaism and their relationship with God in our homeland and in the city of Jerusalem. But many of us haven’t … we have stayed in the diaspora and live in countries outside of the Land.

How do we diaspora Jews relate to Israel? What is our role to play? I am reminded time and again of the end of the exodus from Egypt. As we were preparing to cross over the Jordan river, two of our tribes made a decision that is the basis for the symbiotic relationship in which we find ourselves today. Two tribes made a decision that the right place for them to be living would be in modern day Jordan on the other side of the river. They were the original diaspora. Moses responded to them by saying they couldn’t stand on the sidelines while the Nation of Israel was going to fight for their survival. The two tribes responded that they had no intention to do that. They would not settle their own lands until the rest of the nation was settled. They would serve in the army and they would be 100 percent committed to the cause. Then, after the war was over they would return home to their families and continue their lives. Perhaps they understood the words of the Haggadah long before they were even written? They understood the paradoxical existence before we chose to live it.

We are committed to state of Israel. We are committed to her prosperity … to her safety … to her future … and to her legacy. We support from afar in times of peace and in times of war. Our lives are so entangled in their lives and we see our homeland as being a place to be proud of being a part of and a cause that demands our support. As supporters of Zion we must be aware of the power of our words. If we want to continue allowing for “Next years in Jerusalem,” we must fight for the standing of and the place for the State of Israel. As members of the family we must be willing to accept our homeland not just as it is now but also help to make it as it should be ... to help make Jerusalem into a city of peace which is the meaning of its name. Israel is and always has been a light unto the nations. It remains so to this very day, no matter what the UN or anyone says. As Jewish leaders living the paradox we have a responsibility to remind the world over and over again of this basic fact encapsulated in these beautiful words,




, next year in Jerusalem. Though we choose to live outside of our Homeland we nevertheless have a great role to play in her future just as we did in her past.

Every time that I leave Israel I shed tears of sadness and tears of joy. Sadness that I am leaving my home again and joy that I was blessed to live in a generation that has the ability to build and maintain the state of Israel. For the foreseeable future I will continue to embrace this paradox of my life in the diaspora. But that will never alter my love and affection for Israel and my support as well.

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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