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12/24/2020 09:23:45 AM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

With the Winter Solstice occurring this past Monday, the day with the least amount of daylight in the year has passed, although that is independent of the seemingly non-stop overcast days here in Pittsburgh. Each consecutive day now adds about one minute of daylight more than the prior day. For those who light Shabbat candles every week, you will notice that each Friday the time is approximately seven minutes later than the previous week. With the passing of the Winter Solstice, we are beginning to slowly edge out of the darkness in many respects, all of them promising a brighter tomorrow. As more and more vaccines are made available and more of the populace gets vaccinated, not just in the United States, but across the globe, we can begin to increase our hope that fewer and fewer people will become infected and/or die. It will still take months to achieve a high percentage of the American population to receive their inoculations, which means that we must continue to be vigilant in our personal health protocols of mask wearing, physical distancing, and eliminating our interactions with those that we do not live with to minimize the risk.

Despite decades of adversarial relationships with its neighbors, Israel moved from two peace treaties, one with Egypt and one with Jordan, to new treaties with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. When nations recognize that they have far more in common with each other and that wars will not solve their differences, they can turn their swords in plowshares as the prophet Isaiah envisioned, and utilize their commonalities to better the lives of all of their citizens. I do not anticipate the creation of Middle Eastern Union ala the European Union, but rather, a free flow of ideas and trade, as these countries share their specialties with each other for mutual benefit. Our challenge here in the United States is to get citizens from differing political parties to be able to recognize the same thing. I pray that there are enough people of good will to drown out the voices of dissent, for the continuous barrage of H speech corrodes the soul of the individual, making compromise far less obtainable.

But it is not enough to merely sign legal documents between countries. The citizens of these countries must learn why peace is far more desirable. That does not mean that any of things we might find unacceptable either in Israel or these countries will suddenly be solved. But with a new era of peace, hope can return to the Middle East that all nations can work together for the benefit of all of their peoples. We even see a glimmer of potential between Israel and Saudi Arabia with a news article that Saudi textbooks have softened their language about Israel, and that El-Al flights are now permitted over Saudi airspace. The flowering of peace can grow a garden of many plants that can squeeze out the weeds as well. Peace grows peace. It will never be perfect, but the alternative is far less desirable, and these nations recognize it. There will always be naysayers who will offer differing views, with such gifts as the sale of fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates, the removal of the Sudan from the Terrorist Watch List and the recognition of Morocco’s rights to the Western Sahara as the real purpose. Peace is about give and take, and it is far better to work from a place of peace than not. We should encourage peace in all quarters, and even more so at home. The Hebrew word for peace – shalom – or in Arabic – salaam – is derived from the root word meaning “wholeness” or “completeness”. When we are at peace, we are whole, complete. The absence of peace means that we are not whole, not complete. May these examples push all Americans towards self-examination, to recognize that it far better to be complete – shalom – than incomplete. Shalom.

Sun, January 17 2021 4 Shevat 5781