Yes, I agree that President Trump’s decision to end the Iran deal was a good thing, even though I knew exactly what it meant for Israel. Within minutes of Trump’s speech, the IDF Chief of Staff announced that the army had been put on high alert. Reserve soldiers were called to serve in their units and bomb shelters in the north were “open for business”. A time like this is very serious for Israel. Hundreds of thousands of lives are in danger and, if Nassrallah (the leader of Hezbollah in Lebanon) decides to “join the fun”, millions of Jews will be in harm’s way. According to all sources Hezbollah has 150,000 rockets ready to go (yes, 150,000 – no exaggeration… unfortunately) and they are supported by Iran who will certainly give the green light at any moment. This is no joking matter and yet… there’s no place I’d rather be!
I grew up in a very small community called Middle Village. By the time I arrived in the world (1961), the two shuls were worried about finding money to pay the bills and ten men to make the minyan. In the mid 60’s these two shuls merged into one and became known as “Congregation Sons of Israel – Ahavas Achim”. My father z”l was president for about 15 years and everything my family did was centered around the shul. The Rabbi, who lived three miles away, ate Shabbat meals by our house and napped by us as well. Why do I write all this? Simply because it meant one thing; everything that went on in that building was very close to my heart. Even though I was just a child, I was very involved in the shul. I turned the page sign so the congregation could see what we were up to, I listened to every word of the Rabbi’s speech and I paid close attention to the Torah reading each and every week. It was during one of those Torah readings – as a young boy of 9 or 10 – that changed my life.
The parsha was “Mattot” where an incredible dialogue takes place between the tribes of Reuven and Gad and our greatest leader, Moshe. The tribes were very large and were worried that there would not be enough room for them in Eretz Yisrael. They asked Moshe a simple question; “If you would grant us a favor, let this land (east of the Jordan) be given to us as our permanent property, and do not bring us across the Jordan.” (Be’Midbar 32:5) Moshe’s answer was mind blowing! He did not address their concern, did not seem to care about their issue and totally dismissed their idea. All he said was; “Why should your brothers go out and fight while you stay here?” (Be’Midbar 32:6) It was only when Reuven and Gad promised that they would fight with their brothers, that Moshe agreed. “We will arm ourselves… and fight until we have conquered the homeland… we will not return home until every Israelite has taken possession of his property…. Moshe said to them, ‘If you do that… your petition will be granted… you must cross the Jordan before Hashem and fight until He has driven His enemies before Him. When the land is conquered before Hashem, you may return home’…” (Be’Midbar 32:17-22 – all verses translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan z”l)
As stated above, I was just 9 or 10 when I heard this Torah reading and I couldn’t get it out of my head. The lesson to me was clear; when Jews are in danger, you don’t run away to save yourself… you fight with them and erase that danger! Right there, in good ‘ol Middle Village, Queens – the “token dropped” and I understood what it meant to be part of the Jewish Nation. No shirking responsibilities, no passing the buck, no looking the other way, no living in my own little world with the doors closed… none of that! The Torah wants no part of that way of life!
A Jew does not live in a bubble. We are one nation and when a fire is raging, we jump in to do whatever we can to save our brothers and sisters. This way of thinking is what made me into a Jewish activist. It connected me with Rabbi Meir Kahane z”l and his wonderful Jewish Defense League and it was the guiding force behind making Aliyah with my wife and children. “Your brothers go out and fight while you stay here???” It’s the most powerful question in the Torah.
Let’s now fast forward to today… May 2018. Iran is upset about President Trump’s decision and threatens revenge against America’s #1 ally, our beloved Israel. Nassrallah is getting his rockets ready and I’m certain that Hamas is planning on coming to the party as well. My son and two of my sons-in-law are in elite combat units and will be called to serve if the tomato hits the fan. I serve in a chemical warfare unit in the IDF and will be called as well. Maybe we should all leave for a while? After all, we are all American citizens and could easily hop on a plane with the kids and grandkids. What do you say? Good idea?
Ten words. That’s my entire answer, just ten words. Actually, to be honest, it’s not my words at all. It’s the very words that the greatest Jew taught our people; “Your brothers go out and fight while you stay here?” So… no! The Sackett family will not be escaping to safety. We will stay here, daven to Hashem that everything remains peaceful but – at the same time – we will be prepared to fight with our brothers to annihilate the enemies of Hashem. Come join us! Am Yisrael Chai!