Shabbat Shalom: Israel, a People, and Israel, a Land

Apr 23, 2021 | Article

Shabbat Shalom: Israel, a People, and Israel, a Land

Last week, the Israeli Air Force took to the skies, families gathered together, and small celebrations resumed in honor of Israel’s Independence Day. Here in Colorado, we acknowledged the occasion in ways that would have been unusual even a few years ago, connecting across distances both small and vast to celebrate in real time with our Israeli family. There’s more celebration to come, and we invite you to join JEWISHcolorado’s Celebrate Israel festivities next week.

This week’s Torah reading also reemphasizes that most elemental connection between Israel, a people, and Israel, a land. Another double portion, Achrei Mot–Kedoshim begins with God speaking to Moses, not as a listener but as a mourner, following the death of Moses’s nephews. In the shadow of such loss, the reading prescribes Israel’s most holy act: the Yom Kippur ritual of offering up and making amends for transgressions. In today’s Yom Kippur service, worshipers together recite a litany of transgressions, sharing in both the responsibility and the repair, as individuals and as a community, thus transforming communal guilt into communal wholeness and then holiness.

The latter portion of this Shabbat’s reading defines such laws and practices as are meant to inspire, to elevate, to love and to honor life. In so doing these things, Israel the people becomes the vehicle for holiness in Israel the land.

We have been homeless for much of our history. We have been Israel disconnected from Israel for millennia. And for millennia, the longing to return to Jerusalem has shaped our language and focused our hearts. We are a particular people who are also a particular place aspiring to universal moral truths: do not steal; do not lie; do not pervert justice; do not stand idly by. And thus does our home become the manifestation of our morals. 

Israel, in imperfect perfection, striving for shlamut (completion and wholeness) and shalom (lasting peace). For this, I am a Zionist.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Jay Strear
President & CEO