God promised us that we would one day be as many as the stars in the sky. Or, as many as the grains of sand on the beach. At least the Bible tells us that God promised that to our ancestors. But, truthfully, how often do we get to feel that we are many? As Jews in the diaspora, most of the time we feel that we are few and that others are many more.
Last week I attended the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC. I was one of approximately 18,000 participants in a conference that featured speakers such as VP Pence, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, Congressmen and Congresswomen from both parties, PM Netanyahu and Israeli leaders from the current coalition and from the opposition, the President of Guatemala, thought and action leaders from both the U.S. and Israel, racially diverse Jews and Christians of all denominations, students and older participants, affiliated and non-affiliated folks, and a large delegation of rabbis and cantors from across our nation. We were many. And, despite our differences on so many levels, we were all there to celebrate and to support the important connection between the U.S. and Israel.
There were opportunities to learn directly from people involved in Israeli initiatives that benefit people around the world. And, there were opportunities to learn about joint Israeli and Palestinian start up efforts directed at bolstering the economy and life of Palestinians.
We heard stories from Tzipi Livni and from Isaac “Bougie” Herzog, two Israeli politicians from opposing sides of the aisle, who shared stories about their childhoods. Livni told about growing up with a mother who was a legend in her time. Livni’s mother loved her but refused to hug her children because she believed that this was the best way to raise children to be strong in a “tough neighborhood.” Herzog spoke of the warmth of his father and of his pride in knowing that it was his own grandfather who wrote the Prayer for the State of Israel.
In our weekly Torah portion of VaYakhel-Pedudei we read that the Israelites brought gifts to the Sanctuary and contributed efforts “above and beyond” (v’hoter) what was required (Exodus 36:7). Our Sages teach us that “above and beyond” means that not only the material objects were given, but that the genuine spirit of participation was amazing. It was that genuine spirit of participation that was mirrored in the words “above and beyond.”
At AIPAC, the genuine spirit of participation was amazing, and the joy of being one of many was uplifting.
If you want to see a full menu of videos of speeches, interviews and/or sessions, click here.
Most of all, while we may not be many in comparison with others around us, may we be blessed with a sense of being connected to many across our nation and in Israel as well as across the many generations of our people’s history!
Rabbi Gilah Dror
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