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Talmudic Treasures by Rabbi Ziona Zelazo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

“So long as a person still has life, they should never abandon faith.”

              All of us find ourselves in difficult and challenging situations in life. The way we view our challenges is personal, but it is recommended by social workers and spiritual leaders not to feel hopeless. Hope is the belief that from every crisis some good will emerge, and that crisis could be a device to make us stronger – if hope is the basis.

             How does hope work in the political arena...? Listening to our president on Sunday, addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, I felt uncomfortable.  I am not sure what exactly was on his mind when he chose to quote a Talmudic passage;

“So long as a person still has life, they should never abandon faith.” 
            Surely, he is sending a message of hope. But if he was trying to talk to the Jewish audience and impress them, he probably did not realize that for Jews, the power of hope is what kept them alive for centuries. For Jews hope is not just a word – it is part of their daily life. So what and where is his amazing so-called message?
            I agree with Obama that we should not give up the vision of peace in the Middle East. But the use of this Talmudic passage is out of context and irrelevant. First he offers a plan that endorses a Jewish state with its 1967 borders with agreed land swaps as the basis for a Palestinian state. Secondly, he sees an urgent need for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians. This is not very hopeful. This is urging Israel to be unsafe and in danger.
            I wish that Obama would focus on a peace process that is the work of the Israelis and the Palestinians together. Peace of the land does not solely depend on Israel. The retreat to the 1967’s borders alone will not bring peace. The Palestinians need to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state in the Arab Middle East first. They have to recognize the fact that Israel is rooted in ancient history. Without this, painful sacrifices and security guarantees will not, and cannot bring peace.
            Perhaps, it would have been helpful if Obama would have used a phrase of hope taken from the Quran, to balance his speech a little? I am sure that the Arab world sees challenges and difficulties as well. How is this phrase;
"And never give up hope of Allah's soothing Mercy: Truly no one despairs of Allah's soothing Mercy except those who have no faith." (12:87)
Do you see hope for a brighter future in the Middle East?

© Rabbi Ziona Zelazo