Notes from Jerusalem #3 – as I write this, my wife, Joyce is en route to land here in two hours. Being away from her and my children, their significant others, my siblings, extended family and close friends has been my most difficult challenge.

My best experiences in Jerusalem so far have been going to places where Hebrew is the only language spoken. If I can get the gist of what’s being said, I feel a great sense of accomplishment. Last shabbat I went to Kol HaNeshamah. Many of the congregants are native English speakers, but the entire service is conducted in Hebrew and the dvar Torah is given in Hebrew as well. I’m fairly sure I understood most of the talk and want to share the ikkar/the essence of the teaching that I received and my own take on it.

Just before Avraham is about to slaughter Yitzhak, the Angel of G-d calls to him and tells him NOT to harm the lad. (Genesis 22:12) Then we read: “And Avraham lifted his eyes and saw, a ram caught in a thicket by its horns.” (in Hebrew – neh-eh-chaz basbach b’kar-no). The ram is sacrificed instead of Yitzhak.

What does it mean to be (neh-eh-chaz basbach) “Caught in the thicket?” One way to interpret it is: “stuck in your own mindset.” This was the teaching. I’m looking at it through the lens of a foreigner. It is very easy to do this regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Many of us think we understand what the main problems are. Many of us, especially we who do not live here and do not actually experience the day-to-day reality of being an Israeli or a Palestinian think we know what the solution is or the solutions are to all the problems between Israel and Palestine, Jews and Arabs. I try to speak to as many Israelis as I can and will hopefully have the opportunity (once things calm down) to speak with many Palestinians and to go into the Territories to hear their stories. I am trying very hard not to get “caught in the thicket.” There is no one solution; no silver bullet (bad metaphor – sorry) to solve all the problems facing Israel. Whatever you may think, think again, and then again….. and as we learned in a wonderful Talmudic story, ‘one should always be soft/flexible like a reed and not hard like a cedar.’ (Babylonian Talmud, M. Ta’anit 20a-b).

Lev Friedman
Newton, Massachusetts
Rabbinical Student at Hebrew College