Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sukkot: An Appropriate Response to Jewish Chauvinism

Many Jews don't get it.

But some go beyond that, and into the realm of the rabid. Barbara Kay in today's National Post has joined that latter group.

Kay basically accuses the majority of American Jews of being enemies of the Jewish People. So myopic is her view, that at the same time as she accuses left wing and liberal Jews of being sonay yisrael (haters of Israel) it is she who is spewing hatred of the majority of North American Jews. And its is she who - despite what Kay and her neocon gurus might hope - is out of step with the still normative streak in modern Judaism: identification with the downtrodden and looking for Jewish salvation within the salvation of all. It this universalism within particularism that Kay really hates.

Here is some of her venom. I have annotated in italics - just in case all the falsehoods aren't obvious.

Nothing has the power to divide Jewish hearts like Israel, daily proof of which appears in the news. On the extreme end of anti-Israel agitation we find Canada's most famously faithless Jew, Naomi Klein, rarely out of the headlines between tearful photo-ops in Ramalla and attempted film-festival smears in Toronto. [Actually Klein spends very little of her time on Israel/Palestine issues; is famous for her more general critique of Western consumerist and corporatist society; and has come to the I/P issue only recently.] And then there's the slightly more demented Diana Ralph, stalwart of the Israel-hating fringe group Independent Jewish Voices, recently outed as a tinfoil-hatted anti-Zionist, anti-American conspiracy theorist.

As candidly hopeful Israel executioners, they are but a melodramatic tip of an underlying iceberg. Klein and company won't administer the coup de grace to the Jewish people. That will come from more seemingly trustworthy, influential elites, [later in the article she admits that these "elites" include 75% of American Jews ] nominal Jews [nominal because they don't agree with Kay] who don't realize that they have abandoned Judaism for another religion, one presently antithetical to Judaism's existential portion.


In the course of an Aug. 19 conference call with 1,000 or so American rabbis, Barack Obama urged them to use their High Holiday sermons to "tell the stories of health-care dilemmas to illustrate what is at stake." Rather creepily, he added -- imagine if it were George Bush intoning these words to 1,000 evangelical ministers -- "we are God's partners in matters of life and death." [Obama, of course didn't mention God. But even if he did why is religious talk creepy? Especially when talking to clergy. Religious talk is creepy for Kay, who is a secular nationalists (or is that "neo-fascist") for whom the only values that matter are ethnic loyalty and power. For real people of faith there is nothing wrong with talking about deeply held transcendent values]

... With all due respect to Medicare, a universal health system is not a "matter of life and death" to the Jewish people. Defending Israel is. [And here is the crux of the matter! For Kay and her ilk, Judaism has nothing to do with humanity s a whole and Jews are a special category outside of the societies in which they live. Why wouldn't the health care of their congregants and their congregants friends be a moral issue worthy of discussion by American rabbis. What could be more a "matter of life and death" than health care?] What were these rabbis thinking, taking their holy day sermon orders from the state? [This, from a woman who wants Judaism to be subservient to the State of Israel.]

... It's almost as if they could no longer distinguish between Judaism and the Democratic party.

In fact, there's no almost-as-if about any of these conditions. Liberalism is today the de facto religion of most American Jews, a stunning 78% of whom voted for Obama, no particular friend to Israel, to say the least....

Ahavat Yisrael, the (not uncritical, but steadfast) love of Israel is the heart and soul of Judaism, like it or not. [Actually, Maimonides, among many others, would disagree. But that is all you are left with when you have no Jewish values (and Kay probably wouldn't know a Jewish value if it hit her in the head) other than ethnic identification.] ...

When the left abandoned Israel in 1967, leftist Jews abandoned Judaism [No! They abandoned Israel - and for many only slowly and painfully], but in galling displays of self-love (please don't call them self-hating Jews; they adore themselves), they refuse to hand in their Jewish passports. Our publicly anti-Zionist Jews flay their fellow Jews, but flaunt their Jewishness to clothe their non-Jewish anti-Zionist colleagues with respectability. [Wait a second ! Whose flaying whom! Didn't Kay just condemn all those deluded American Jews who voted for Obama?] They insist, even as they scream for boycotts of Israeli academics or films [How many times did the TIFF protestors explain they weren't advocating a boycott of Israeli films - just protesting TIFF's honouring of Tel-Aviv?] , even as they denounce Israel as an "apartheid" state, that they are the true standard-bearers for Jewish values like "social justice," that catch-all shibboleth for the ennoblement of myth-driven anti-Semitic Arab revanchism. [So... she is against Social Justice? That's NOT a Jewish value?]

...The Jews have been expelled from 94 countries. There is but one, our homeland since time immemorial, from which Jews can be blown to smithereens, but not expelled. [Does Kay really think that Jews will be expelled from the U.S. (or Canada where she lives) ? That is, no doubt, why she thinks that being concerned about American issues is such a foolish waste of time for "real" Jews. Kay is consumed by her paranoia - see her sentence above - and has taken self centredness and ethnocentrism to a new level] ... That in such parlous times 1,000 establishment Jewish spiritual leaders think pleasing the Oba-messiah is more important than encouraging their flocks' ahavat Yisrael on Judaism's most sacred days is a measure of the religion of Judaism's decline and the religion of liberal-ism's ascendancy in America. [Jewish libalism in America has been a fact for at least 100 years. It is not something new.]
. source: The National Post Online
So much for Kay's diatribe.

But Kay is wrong. Judaism has long mixed particularism with universalism. Ritual, faith and worship are particular. Social obligations universal. "One law for you and the stranger among you." Our obligations start with family, and expand by stages to all humanity. Our Jewish obligations are but a step on this continuum.

And the truth is that the holiday of Sukkot - which starts Friday - is the quintessential holiday where Jews are to be outward looking: concerned with the welfare of all humanity. Sukkot is a harvest festival - giving thanks for the bounty of the previous year - and a holiday of prayer for rain in the coming year. And as the rabbis of the Talmud put it, "The rain falls on Jews and non-Jews alike." Indeed, on Sukkot, the High Priest offered up 70 sacrifices for the 70 nations of the world, and non-Jews where invited to come to the Temple to offer sacrifices to Yaweh. As far as can be told, many of them did just that.

On Sukkot we are enjoined to invite guests - Jews and non-Jews - to our sukkah: to share our bounty and the holiday spirit. At my own synagogue, we have long used Sukkot - the holiday where we live (or at least eat) in flimsy temporary shelters - to advocate for the homeless. My synagogue has helped run a weekly homeless shelter program for 16 years now, and we have sponsored two low cost housing projects to help get the poor - Jews and no non-Jews - off the streets and into decent housing. More recently we have formed a Social Justice Advocacy Committee to lobby government, and raise public support for, better poverty alleviation policies.

This year on Sukkot, myself and some of my synagogue hevre will be participating in an event sponsored by another Toronto congregation: a multi-faith peace "pilgrimage". Jews, Muslims, and Christians will march for Peace, and to highlight human solidarity above day to day political differences.

I will be walking with my lulav and etrog: partly to say to Ms Kay - that it is she that is out of step with historic Jewish values - not liberal Jews who wish, and work for, a better world for all.

If you are in Toronto and can make it, try to come. What better way to spend chol hamoed sukkot?

Friday, September 25, 2009

"For Netanyahu, the threat of peace has passed"

I am reprinting below - in full - an important article by Uri Avnery, doyen of the Israeli Peace Camp.

Avnery, as usual, is insightful. Somehow he remains optimistic. But I see little reason to be realistically hopeful. Especially in light of his analysis.

Netanyahu will do whatever he can to avoid meaningful concessions, Obama will not force him, the Israeli public will view this a "reprieve", and nothing will change.

What should diaspora Jews who yearn for justice and peace in Israel/Palestine do in the face of a hopeless situation? This is something to consider this Yom Kippur.

The Drama and the Farce

The Waldorf-Astoria Summit


NO POINT denying it: in the first round of the match between Barack Obama
and Binyamin Netanyahu, Obama was beaten.

Obama had demanded a freeze of all settlement activity, including East
Jerusalem, as a condition for convening a tripartite summit meeting, in the
wake of which accelerated peace negotiations were to start, leading to peace
between two states - Israel and Palestine.

In the words of the ancient proverb, a journey of a thousand miles starts
with a single step. Netanyahu has tripped Obama on his first step. The
President of the United States has stumbled.

THE THREEFOLD summit did indeed take place. But instead of a shining
achievement for the new American administration, we witnessed a humbling
demonstration of weakness. After Obama was compelled to give up his demand
for a settlement freeze, the meeting no longer had any content.

True, Mahmoud Abbas did come, after all. He was dragged there against his
will. The poor man was unable to refuse the invitation from Obama, his only
support. But he will pay a heavy price for this flight: the Palestinians,
and the entire Arab world, have seen his weakness. And Obama, who had
started his term with a ringing speech to the Muslim world from Cairo, now
looks like a broken reed.

The Israeli peace movement has been dealt another painful blow. It had
pinned its hopes on the steadfastness of the American president. Obama's
victory and the settlement freeze were to show the Israeli public that the
refusal policy of Netanyahu was leading to disaster.

But Netanyahu has won, and in a big way. Not only did he survive, not only
has he shown that he is no "sucker" (a word he uses all the time), he has
proven to his people - and to the public at large - that there is nothing to
fear: Obama is nothing but a paper tiger. The settlements can go on
expanding without hindrance. Any negotiations that start, if they start at
all, can go on until the coming of the Messiah. Nothing will come out of

For Netanyahu, the threat of peace has passed. At least for the time being.

IT IS difficult to understand how Obama allowed himself to get into this
embarrassing situation.

Machiavelli taught that one should not challenge a lion unless one is able
to kill him. And Netanyahu is not even a lion, just a fox.

Why did Obama insist on the settlement freeze - in itself a very reasonable
demand - if he was unable to stand his ground? Or, in other words, if he was
unable to impose it on Netanyahu?

Before entering into such a campaign, a statesman must weigh up the array of
forces: What power is at my disposal? What forces are confronting me? How
determined is the other side? What means am I ready to employ? How far am I
prepared to go in using my power?

Obama has a host of able advisors, headed by Rahm Emanuel, whose Israeli
origins (and name) were supposed to give him special insights. George
Mitchell, a hard-nosed and experienced diplomat, was supposed to provide
sober assessments. How did they all fail?

Logic would say that Obama, before entering the fray, should have decided
which instruments of pressure to employ. The arsenal is inexhaustible - from
a threat by the US not to shield the Israeli government with its veto in the
Security Council, to delaying the next shipment of arms. In 1992 James
Baker, George Bush Sr's Secretary of State, threatened to withhold American
guarantees for Israel's loans abroad. That was enough to drag even Yitzhak
Shamir to the Madrid conference.

It seems that Obama was either unable or unwilling to exert such pressures,
even secretly, even behind the scenes. This week he allowed the American
navy to conduct major joint war-games with the Israeli Air Force.

Some people hoped that Obama would use the Goldstone report to exert
pressure on Netanyahu. Just one hint that the US might not use its veto in
the Security Council would have sown panic in Jerusalem. Instead, Washington
published a statement on the report, dutifully toeing the Israeli propaganda

True, it is hard for the US to condemn war crimes that are so similar to
those committed by its own soldiers. If Israeli commanders are put on trial
in The Hague, American generals may be next in line. Until now, only the
losers in wars were indicted. What will the world come to if those who
remain in office are also accused?

THE INESCAPABLE conclusion is that Obama's defeat is the outcome of a faulty
assessment of the situation. His advisors, who are considered seasoned
politicians, were wrong about the forces involved.

That has happened already in the crucial health insurance debate. The
opposition is far stronger than anticipated by Obama's people. In order to
get out of this mess somehow, Obama needs the support of every senator and
congressman he can lay his hands on. That automatically strengthens the
position of the pro-Israel lobby, which already has immense influence in

The last thing that Obama needs at this moment is a declaration of war by
AIPAC and Co. Netanyahu, an expert on domestic American politics, scented
Obama's weakness and exploited it.

Obama could do nothing but gnash his teeth and fold up.

That debacle is especially painful at this precise point in time. The
impression is rapidly gaining ground that he is indeed an inspiring speaker
with an uplifting message, but a weak politician, unable to turn his vision
into reality. If this view of him firms up, it may cast a shadow over his
whole term.

BUT IS Netanyahu's policy wise from the Israeli point of view?

This may well turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory.

Obama will not disappear. He has three and a half years in office before
him, and thereafter perhaps four more. That's a lot of time to plan revenge
for someone hurt and humiliated at a delicate moment, at the beginning of
his term of office.

One cannot know, of course, what is happening in the depths of Obama's heart
and in the back of his mind. He is an introvert who keeps his cards close to
his chest. His many years as a young black man in the United States have
probably taught him to keep his feelings to himself.

He may draw the conclusion, in the footsteps of all his predecessors since
Dwight Eisenhower (except Father Bush during Baker's short stint as hatchet
man): Don't Mess With Israel. With the help of its partners and servants in
the US, it can cause grievous harm to any President.

But he may also draw the opposite conclusion: Wait for the right
opportunity, when your standing in the domestic arena is solid, and pay
Netanyahu back with interest. If that happens, Netanyahu's air of victory
may turn out to be premature.

IF I were asked for advice (not to worry, it won't happen), I would tell

The forging of Israeli-Palestinian peace would mean a historic turnabout, a
reversal of a 120 year old trend. That is not an easy operation, not to be
undertaken lightly. It is not a matter for diplomats and secretaries. It
demands a determined leader with a stout heart and a steady hand. If one is
not ready for it, one should not even start.

An American President who wants to undertake such a role must formulate a
clear and detailed peace plan, with a strict timetable, and be prepared to
invest all his resources and all his political capital in its realization.
Among other things, he must be ready to confront, face to face, the powerful
pro-Israel lobby.

This will not succeed unless public opinion in Israel, Palestine, the Arab
world, the United States and the whole world is thoroughly prepared well in
advance. It will not succeed without an effective Israeli peace movement,
without strong support from US public opinion, especially Jewish-American
opinion, without a strong Palestinian leadership and without Arab unity.

At the appropriate moment, the President of the United States must come to
Jerusalem and address the Israeli public from the Knesset rostrum, like
Anwar Sadat and President Jimmy Carter before him, as well as the
Palestinian parliament, like President Bill Clinton.

I don't know if Obama is the man. Some in the peace camp have already given
up on him, which effectively means that they have despaired of peace as
such. I am not ready for this. One battle rarely decides a war, and one
mistake does not foretell the future. A lost battle can steel the loser, a
mistake can teach a valuable lesson.

IN ONE of his essays, Karl Marx said that when history repeats itself: The
first time it is as tragedy, the second time it is as farce.

The 2000 threefold summit meeting at Camp David was high drama. Many hopes
were pinned on it, success seemed to be within reach, but in the end it
collapsed, with the participants blaming each other.

The 2009 Waldorf-Astoria summit was the farce.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

May We All Be Written in the Book of Life

Part of a flock of 5000 White African Pelicans, spotted over Afula today, on their way, as every year, from Crimea to East Africa.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rule of the Jungle or the Rule of Law?

Yesterday the UN released the Goldstone Report. It is a 50o-plus page investigation of the recent Gaza War, - and it condemns both Israel and Hamas as having "probably" committed war crimes and "possibly" commited crimes against humanity. It further concludes, that if Israel and Hamas don't, within the next six months, take serious and thorough actions to criminally investigate these alleged crimes, then the International Criminal Court in the Hague (remember Milosovitch?) should take up that challenge.

You can read the full report here.

Predictably, Israel, and its uncritical supporters, have dismissed the report as biased.

"The same U.N. that allows the president of a country to announce on a podium its aspiration to destroy the State of Israel has no right to teach us about morality," Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said, referring to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"This is a report born of bias," Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said in describing the report. "What do you do with an initiative born of bigotry?"

I could go on with a dozen similar denunciations.

But, in fact, the report was produced by a commission headed by Richard Goldstone, a respected judge from South Africa: who is Jewish, calls himself a Zionist, and is a trustee of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem – for God sake! Of course this has not stopped many of Israel’s more vociferous supporters from labelling him as an antisemite, and a self-hating Jew.

And those among the “Israel right or wrong crowd”, who are not accusing him of being biased or a race traitor, are calling him a “naïve dupe.”

But, again, Goldstone’s legal and investigative credentials are impeccable. He served as a judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa from 1994 to 2003; he served as the chief prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda from 15 August 1994 to September 1996; he was chairperson of the International Independent Inquiry on Kosovo from 1999 to 2001; and in 2004/2005 he served on the Independent International Committee, chaired by Paul Volcker, to investigate the Iraq Oil for Food program. In all these capacities, his opinions and decisions have been held in esteem, and had real consequences.

Of course his report on Gaza was less than complete – and Goldstone admits to that – because Israel refused to cooperate with it from the start. It chose not to present its side of the story. Goldstone did invite Israelis to testify, and some individuals did step forward – notably the family and supporters of Israeli prisoner Gilad Shalit.

But even if you discount half of what the report finds – assuming that it was not able to find the whole truth because of Israeli non-cooperation and Hamas lies – the report is damning of both Israel and Hamas.

And this is what particularly gets the goat of some of the pro Israel critics:
How can you compare Israel to the terrorists? They deliberately target
civilians. We just kill them as collateral damage.

And anyway we are no worse than the Russians in Chechnya and the Americans in Afghanistan.

And here lies the crux of the matter!

As Amir Oren wrote in his attack on Goldstone in today’s Haaretz:

In the end, it is not about the law, but about power, military and political.
Goldstone is now free to go to Kunduz [in Afghanistan, site of the recent
killing if 18 civilians because of a NATO action], but American might means
there is no chance that he will.

It is true that other countries also commit war crimes. It is true that America, Russia, and China fix the system so that they are never in the docket.

But as Jews – especially before Rosh Hashanah – we have to ask ourselves: do we want to live in a world of law, or a world of raw power? Should might make right, or vis-versa? Should ethics and justice apply to the world of international relations and warfare – or is anything permissible? If we opt for the rule of law, then Israel and Hamas both stand accused? If we opt for the rule of the jungle, then how do we so smugly condemn Hamas?

Of course, we should not forget – certainly not at High Holiday time – that justice must be tempered by mercy. Even the most heinous crimes may become understandable and forgivable. Our tradition teaches that if God ruled by justice alone, the world would not survive for even a moment. But mercy requires contrition, an admission of fault, and at least some minimal attempt to atone and to do better in the future.

Instead, we get denial, denial, denial.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ma'asei BeReshit

Rosh Hashanah starts next Friday evening. According to one tradition, it marks the sixth day of creation - the day that man was created. Therefore, this coming Saturday evening will mark the anniversary of "Big Bang".

According to another tradition, everyday God renews the original creation of the world - "Oseh ma'asei bereshit." If he didn't, the universe would cease to exist.

The photo above was taken from the Hubble Space Telescope after its recent refurbishing. Said Hubble senior scientist Dave Leckrone:

The images ... don't just show science, but evoke a sense of spirituality. What I see is the grandeur of creation ...

Amen Selah

This Rosh Hashanah, let us renew our sense of wonder - of radical amazement.

To see more recent Hubble images visit

Monday, September 07, 2009

End of Elul 5769

Well I am back from vacation and some overseas work, and I have to say that it was a pleasure to be out of the routine of reading the Israeli press, the Israel/Palestine blogosphere, and the mainstream media - and then feeling compelled to comment.

But now that I am back, old habits re-assert themselves. So I will share two article that I thought where particularly relevant above the daily noise. Both deal with long term trends, rather than the hot news items of the day. Both are - in their own ways - cries from the heart, and both are appropriate for Jews to consider seriously, as we approach the High Holidays: a time for reflection and repentance.

The first is an article that appeared in the Jerusalem Post. It is by ex Member-of-Knesset, Naomi Hazan. It reads in part:

... The growing rift between these two major Jewish communities [U.S. and Israel] is not indicative merely of a disagreement over policy directions. It mirrors far more profound processes taking place in both settings.

In the US, Jews have, time and again, evinced steadfast support for the liberal principles of equality and social justice, which they equate with their Jewish heritage as well as with universal values. These binding norms have helped to fuse their collective identity and continually guide their outlooks and their behavior. Concern for the downtrodden, the disempowered and the other has become central to the Jewish ethic in the US. ... These views are an inextricable part of their makeup as Jewish citizens of the US.

Trends in Israel point in quite different directions. As more Jews outside Israel - in Europe and Latin America as well as in North America - have internalized the democratic ethos, those in Israel appear to be disengaging from its roots. Six decades of independent achievement are increasingly being clouded by the acceleration of socioeconomic inequalities, the prevalence of discrimination among Jews of different backgrounds (shamelessly brought to the fore by the effort to exclude pupils of Ethiopian origin from some religious schools in Petah Tikva), the systemically unequal treatment of Arab citizens as well as continuing rule over another people, with all that this entails.

... [There is, in Israel,] an alarming rise in intolerance, bigotry and outright racism which flies in the face of basic democratic principles. A dangerous combination of religious formalism and unfettered patriotism, coupled with an almost inexplicable attachment to neoconservative doctrines, has narrowed Jewish horizons in Israel ...

Under the circumstances, it is hardly surprising that Jews in Israel and abroad are drifting apart: The symbiotic relationship which bound them together in the past cannot survive in the free environment of the 21st century unless it is cemented by a renewed commitment to human dignity and the values of justice and equality that give it meaning. ...

There is a steep decline in American Jewish sentiment toward Israel. If, in the annual American Jewish Committee survey of 2006, 37% of US Jews claimed that they felt very close to Israel, by 2008 -scarcely two years later - this figure dropped to 29%. Undoubtedly the Second Lebanon War, corruption in high places, the Gaza offensive and shifting global currents have left a mark on American Jews. They have found outlets other than Israel to articulate their Jewish identity and their ongoing dedication to its moral dictates. ...

source: Jerusalem Post September 3, 2009

I think this article is spot on - except for the last sentence quoted.

I fear that American (and Canadian) Jews who grow disillusioned with Israel - and there are many - will not necessarily find other outlets to articulate their Jewish identity. Certainly some will (I count myself among them - I have become more religious as I have become less Zionist.) But many will just drift away.

The identification of Judaism with Israel has become so strong in the last 40 years - promoted from within the Jewish Community itself - that any disillusionment with Israel will leave most Diaspora Jews wondering what there is left about Judaism to hold onto. Of course, there is a LOT! But 40 or more years of monomaniacal Israel-centric education and community propaganda have obscured that for most people.

Israel is a mess, and it stands a good chance of dragging down Judaism with it. Once Israel was a source of Jewish identification for young Diaspora Jews. Today it is more likely to make them run.

We need to fix what's wrong in Israel to be sure - but we also need to break the identification (as in "they are identical") of Judaism with Israel (and Israel with Judaism). It will good for Israel and good for Judaism.

* * *

The second article I want to share is by Jimmy Carter, from yesterday's Washington Post. The salient section is the following. After have discussed the "two state solution", Carter continues:

A more likely alternative to the present debacle is one state, which is obviously the goal of Israeli leaders who insist on colonizing the West Bank and East Jerusalem. A majority of the Palestinian leaders with whom we met are seriously considering acceptance of one state, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. By renouncing the dream of an independent Palestine, they would become fellow citizens with their Jewish neighbors and then demand equal rights within a democracy. In this nonviolent civil rights struggle, their examples would be Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.

They are aware of demographic trends. Non-Jews are already a slight majority of total citizens in this area, and within a few years Arabs will constitute a clear majority.

Emphasis mine. Source: Washington Post Sept 6, 2009

Carter says this with no joy. He goes on to explicitly say he prefers a two state-solution.

But lets face it. That possibility seems more and more a remote one. The Palestinians are not likley to accept a state, while Israel keeps most of the settlements.

And while a one state solution with everyone living as equals in a bi-national (or non-national) state would be fine with me (maybe even preferable !) it is unlikely to happen. Israel is the stronger party, and its Jewish population is in no mode to give equality and democratic rights to non-Jews in the West Bank or Gaza (See Hazan'a article above.) Indeed, they barely tolerate rights for Arabs in Israel proper.

The far more likely scenario is a defacto continuation of the status quo - more formalized perhaps. One state: two sets of laws and rights; separate and unequal. The Ol' South, or Apartheid - call it what you want - but it will be a cruel, hard and immoral situation carrying on indefinitely.

For Jews like me - who care deeply about an ethical Judaism and a future of the Jewish People as a people committed to that moral and progressive vision - this is a disturbing, but very real possibility: and something to ponder deeply in the last days of Elul 5769.