The LORD said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, they are a stiff-necked people.’ Exodus 32:9 (The Israel Bible™)
Over a hundred days of fire in Southern Israeli areas surrounding the Gaza strip, and almost no one cares. Twenty fires break out each day, consuming thousands of square meters of agricultural areas, fields and crops, while most of the Israeli public remains unconcerned. Why do we remain complacent?
And as the southern land is aching, the northern land is shaking. More than a dozen earthquakes at various intensities took place around Tiberias over the last week or so, and the public remains indifferent. What kind of wake-up call do we need? What level on the Richter scale will shake our hearts? How far do the fire kites need to fly so as to awaken us from our coma?
Symbolically, the Hebrew calendar shows we are right “between the straits” – the three weeks of trouble and distress that struck the people of Israel leading up to the ruin of the Temple. And just as people in the kingdom of Judea were indifferent to their collective fate, the Israeli people of 2018 are mostly concerned with their narrow interests.
Yet things seem to be different in 2018. Israel holds the reputation of being one of the world’s strongest countries – both militarily, diplomatically, and economically. But our temporary success hinges on a worrisome reality: the hostile countries around us have yet to unite and join hands in an effort to destroy us.
Sure, we are a nation that doesn’t like listening to worrying reflections about ourselves. But we are also “a stiff-necked people.” We latch onto what we have got, oblivious to lessons we have already learnt from the tougher times of our history. We are indifferent to our indifference.
The boys trapped in a cave in Thailand worry us far more than putting out the fires a few meters away from us, and this indicates that something in the Israeli nationhood is completely out of whack. We can’t see the main reason for concern, right under our noses.
“The poor of your city come first,” says the Torah. Our main concern should be those close to us, from north to south. And our elected officials should start fixing the country, instead of putting all their efforts in trying to “fix” each other.
Rather than waiting for the next trouble to come down from the skies or from under the ground, we must begin to recognize our collective fate by seeing all these blows as clarions. Every blow tells us to further tighten our bonds, raise our concern for each other, and begin to live by the crux of our nationhood, being “as one man in one heart.”
According to the wisdom of Kabbalah, rebuilding the Temple is not about laying bricks and erecting walls. It’s about building a solid connection between our hearts. That is what we need to build both for ourselves and the world. We have to demonstrate a new level of mutual care and human bonding that will ultimately spread “light unto the nations,” but it has to start right here, between us.