Thursday, March 5, 2020

AIPAC Policy Conference and the Kohanim’s Inauguration Ritual

In Chapter 29 we read about the inauguration ritual that Moshe performed on the Kohanim to install them into their new status. Part of that ritual included a rather peculiar element (29:20):

“You shall slaughter the ram, take [some] of its blood and put it upon the cartilage of Aaron's right ear and upon the cartilage of Aaron's sons' right ears, upon the thumbs of their right hands, and upon the big toes of their right feet, and you shall sprinkle the blood upon the altar all around.”

Why is blood sprinkled specifically on the Kohen’s ear, thumb and big toe? Perhaps this ritual is meant to teach us three important qualities that a Kohen must have to serve and lead effectively. The ear is singled out because a Kohen must be a good listener. The thumb is highlighted because a Kohen must be willing to act decisively. The big toe is mentioned because a Kohen must stand up and lead.

This week I attended the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington DC along with close to 60 members of the Young Israel of Hollywood – Ft. Lauderdale community. It was great to see a number of our high school and college students in attendance. The theme of this year’s convention was “Today. Tomorrow. Together.” The conference organizers wanted to highlight the strength of the US-Israel relationship in the past, present and future. They also wanted to highlight the bipartisan and broad based support for Israel that exists in the US Congress as well as American society. Though there are individual members of Congress who are against foreign aid to Israel, and others who have expressed anti-Israel sentiment (including support for the Boycott Divest and Sanctions movement), on display at the Policy Conference is the diversity of people who are passionate about the US-Israel alliance.

When it comes to supporting Israel and the US-Israel relationship, we should focus on the qualities that were important for the Kohanim to possess in their leadership role. First we must be willing to listen. One of my favorite aspects of Policy Conference is the opportunity to hear from people that think differently than I do and hold views very different than mine, and yet they are passionate about the work of AIPAC and the US-Israel relationship, just like me. Too often in our lives we live in echo chambers. We listen to the news and read the papers that are slanted to agree with our worldview. Just as the Kohanim had to listen in order to lead, so too we must listen in order to learn and grow the movement of pro-Israel Americans.

Second we must be willing to act. Whether it is lobbying our elected officials on Capitol Hill, calling/ e-mailing our representatives or supporting pro-Israel candidates, we must act in accordance with our beliefs and our ideals.

Third, we must be willing to stand up for what we believe. The big toe provides us with balance. We must be firm in our convictions and willing to stand up and share our views on the importance of the US-Israel relationship; to those who are uninformed as well as to those who currently disagree with us.

Just as the Kohanim were installed into their service through their ears, hands and feet, so too we must listen, act and stand up in our roles as pro-Israel activists.

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