Peace Parsha for Sukkot and Simchat Torah: All beginnings are hard

peace_parsha_logo186x140Barbara Green has been a volunteer for Americans for Peace Now for many years.   She lives in Washington, DC.      


"Kol ha-hatchalot kashot," as every Israeli school child learns, means "All beginnings are hard."  We know this to be true in our everyday lives but the Torah gives new meaning to the concept.  

            God  gave us the ultimate new beginning when he created the world, but within 3 short chapters the inhabitants of Paradise were expelled and in the next chapter we have the world's first fratricide. Before long God realizes He made a major mistake when His creation scheme included human beings.  He vows to end the entire enterprise.

            Fortunately for us he finds a single righteous man -- Noah -- and for his sake God promises yet another new beginning.   Noah is to build an ark and bring onto it his wife and children and two of every known species.   God will start all over again.  Everyone else will be destroyed in a flood.

            Does it work this time?  After the ordeal of the flood and the ultimate redemption of the species, Noah lapses into drunkenness.  Bad things follow.    Is there no end to this cycle of great promise followed by disappointment?

            In our own time we have witnessed many false starts in the efforts to end the cycle of hatred/violence/retribution/more violence followed by more retribution between the Palestinians and Israelis.  In 1993, when Prime Minister Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat signed the historic Oslo Agreement on the White House lawn, one felt as though this new beginning -- though hard -- could never be rescinded.   In the 22 years since then, we have seen only more iterations of the dreaded cycle.

            But as the Torah teaches us, and as we know from our own lives, the possibility of a fresh beginning is there if we will only embrace it.   Now that we have left the Days of Awe behind and have begun to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot, we are ready once again to begin the cycle of readings, and we are urged to start again.  For us at APN and all those who care deeply about Israel, that means to double down on our efforts to end nearly 50 years of occupation.   We must write, speak out, cajole, entreat, convince our friends, family, representatives in Washington, the media, and anyone else we encounter that the occupation is illegal, immoral and corrosive to Israel's character.   Otherwise we run the risk of acting out the words of the writer Grace Paley who famously said, "Jews are history, not geography."  

              Today is the first day of the possibility of a new beginning.  Choose life!    Let us begin.