Just when we thought that terrorists could not become any more barbaric, this week in Sydney, Australia locals faithful to ISIS had planned public beheadings of random people off the street. Having recently returned from a visit to Australia I can attest that it is a wonderful place. Despite the high cost of living Australia boasts a vibrant democracy, a healthy economy, ample opportunities, a generous welfare system, lots of good weather, beautiful outdoors and people there seem happy and friendly. Yet we have also learned that one of the leaders of ISIS is Australian.
Who are these Australian (and British) ISIS members and what do they want? What would inspire Westerners to leave their comfortable homes and join a force that murders innocent people, including fellow citizens of their own countries, in the most barbaric fashion and then post videos of their dastardly acts on the internet to brag?
Make no mistake about it Israel is in the midst of a war for its very survival. Hamas has invested in acquiring more advanced rockets to fire indiscriminately as Israeli civilians and to create a network of tunnels through which they seek to sneak into Israel to kill and capture thousands of innocent Jews.
Throughout this latest round of the conflict well meaning people have called for Israel to end its fight against Hamas. Most in the West don’t realize that Hamas is a fanatical religious organization whose raison d’etre is to have armed conflict with Israel leading to the destruction of the State of Israel. In fact the very idea of a cease-fire with Hamas is nonsensical because Hamas has only one goal, to destroy Israel. They see this as a religious obligation from God.
The great medieval Jewish poet and philosopher Judah Halevi wrote a poem about the Land of Israel which begins with this line: “My heart is in the East, yet I remain [physically] in the furthest point West.” This sums up how I feel about Israel. This feeling has intensified over the last few weeks as Israel faces some of the most serious challenges of its short life-span. The question I have asked myself over and over again is what can I do to help?
Often, we go through life without realizing that we are coasting. All of the functions of life seem to be working, yet we are not really participating. In a sense, we become spectators in the game of life. There are those who live their entire life this way.
What does it take to wake us up to the potentiality of a life fulfilled and well lived? What this really requires is spiritual awakening of sorts. In the Torah, there are a few passages that shed light on this phenomenon. As the Israelites wandered the desert, God commanded them to take a lamb and offer it as a Paschal (Passover) sacrifice. Those, however, that were unable to bring the sacrifice in the allotted time either because they were impure or because they were out of the vicinity complained to Moses about it, and asked, "Why should we be excluded so as not to bring the offering of the Lord in its appointed time, with all the children of Israel?” (Numbers 9:6 - 10).
Philosophers, theologians and lay people from time immemorial have been troubled by questions relating to the meaning and purpose of all things.
We humans tend to think that if we don’t know the meaning of something, it is meaningless. If we don’t know the purpose of an object, we believe that it lacks a purpose. Yet, we have all had the experience of discarding something one day, only to find out a couple of days later that we threw away something of great importance. The error, of course, was that we thought that because we did not know the purpose of the object, that it had no purpose. The truth, however, is that not knowing the utility of something does not translate into not any utility.