The Exchange, CIJA, 5 September 2014
Terrorism is bad. It is horrific and the world would be a much nicer and safer place without it.
But during our recent visit to Australia for my parents’ fortieth anniversary, I was chatting with a family friend. Akiva is originally from Yemen and his fluency in Arabic allows him to travel for business throughout the Arab and Muslim world. Listen to what he told me: He said that while terrorism is horrible, it has one positive aspect. Countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and some of the Gulf States that do not have official diplomatic relations with Israel work very closely with us behind the scenes. You see, we have the know-how, expertise and information that they need to combat terrorism in their midst. And so they turn to the State of Israel for assistance and equipment!
On Yom Kippur, the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem seeking atonement for our people. Two goats were chosen and lots were drawn. One would be offered as a sacrifice to G-d and the other would be thrown off a cliff, symbolizing the eradication of our sins. At that point, there was a crimson thread in the Temple that would turn white, signifying that our sins had been forgiven.
What is the significance of the tradition of the red thread that turned white? It’s about clarity. In life, we have a lot of grey area and we’re often not sure if we’re doing the right thing. The thread was very clear. Either our sins were forgiven or they weren’t. No grey areas.
We have just come through an extremely stressful and worrisome summer for our people. We have been at war with an enemy that unabashedly states its goal: to wipe us off the map. And, strangely, so much of the world still sympathizes with them. Over the last few months, with the media and social media stacked against us, for many of us the situation seemed hopeless.
But the tide is turning: Many Arab countries, including neighbouring Egypt, have decried Hamas as terrorists. And the recent actions of ISIS – May the Almighty avenge our brother’s blood – has truly demonstrated the bloodthirstiness of these terrorists to the world. There is no more grey area – the world now has clarity between good and evil.
May this be a year of clarity for all! We pray for clarity in the eyes of the nations that Israel is doing its best to combat terrorism and make this world a safer place for everyone. And may we all have clarity in our individual and communal spiritual lives that we be able to serve the Almighty without falling prey to the temptation of grey areas in our Judaism. May we witness the crimson thread turn white in our personal lives and throughout the community.