As we get ready for Shabbat, I would like to share a D’var Torah that reflects on our recent mission to Israel and connects with the profound words of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, may his memory be a blessing, whose Yahrzeit we mark this week. Our journey to Israel, led by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg of Boca Raton Synagogue and Rabbi Yakkov Gibber of Boca Jewish Center, was a testament to the enduring spirit, unity, and kindness within the Jewish community of South Palm Beach County.
During our three-day mission in mid-October, we delivered 102 large duffel bags of essential supplies, generously donated by our community. We witnessed the resilience of injured soldiers, who maintained high spirits, and families in mourning, who displayed unwavering strength. We also met hundreds of displaced families who found refuge in communities and hotels. The Israeli flags and signs, reading “B’yachad N’natzeach,” (together we will be victorious), served as a reminder of the unity we felt throughout the country, unlike anything we’ve experienced before.
Our journey coincides with the lessons we can draw from this week’s D’var Torah, inspired by Rabbi Sacks’ teachings. Abraham, the first great Jewish leader, emerges as a beacon of responsibility and leadership. The early history of humanity, as depicted in the Torah, is marked by disappointments. Human beings misuse the freedom given to them by God, resulting in chaos and violence.
Adam and Eve blame others, Cain denies moral responsibility, and Noah fails in his collective responsibility. This background helps us appreciate the exceptional nature of Abraham’s leadership. He assumes personal responsibility and acts proactively.
In Parshat Lech Lecha, when a quarrel erupts between his herdsmen and Lot’s, Abraham offers a solution without judgment. He takes immediate action to prevent further conflict. Later, when Lot is captured, Abraham assembles a rescue force and rescues not only Lot, but all the captives. His willingness to help others, without seeking personal gain, is a stark contrast to the prevailing norms.
The pinnacle of Abraham’s leadership is seen in Parshat Vayera, when he challenges God Himself. God is about to pass judgment on the city of Sodom, but Abraham, fearing the city’s destruction, questions God’s decision, seeking to save even the righteous within it. This act marks the first human challenge to God, and God seems to signal that He wants Abraham to do so.
This story shows us that Judaism is more than just accepting the status quo. It’s about challenging the world in the name of a better world. Abraham’s courage to challenge God was a precursor to the faith that would shape our tradition, one that challenges the world, instead of merely accepting it. Judaism calls us to be leaders, to take personal responsibility, moral responsibility, and collective responsibility.
Our mission to Israel and the unity we witnessed, in the face of adversity, are testament to these principles. Just as Abraham challenged God to save Sodom, we challenged the status quo by coming together to support those in need, even in the face of difficult circumstances. It’s in our Jewish DNA to be leaders, to take responsibility, and to act with kindness and unity.
In the words of Rabbi Sacks, “Judaism is God’s call to responsibility.” Let us remember this call, as we continue to stand together, support one another, and make a positive impact on our community and the world. May the unity we’ve experienced in Israel serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration for us all.
Rabbi Josh Broide
Director of the Deborah and Larry D. Silver Center for Jewish Engagement
Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County