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Yells and whispers

Last month’s Hurricane Isaac proved that sometimes we can see the storm on the horizon while this week’s tornado in New York taught us that other times it can sneak up on us quieter than a mouse.

The Jewish people would do well to heed recent events and their implications of a coming storm.

In this past week’s torah portion the nation of Israel is told of the curses that G-d will rain down upon them if they fail to keep the mitzvot. Traditionally these curses, known as ‘tochachas’, are read in a hushed tone. I recently asked the JPost’s very own “Ask the Rabbi”, Rabbi Shlomo Brody, why it was that we read the curses in a whisper. 

While I had never heard a source for the custom, I realized I had never been to a service where it wasn’t read in that somber quiet voice. I posed that it seemed counter-intuitive to whisper what was meant to be a stern warning for the Jewish people. Aren't the curses listed so that we understand the severity of disobeying G-d's will? I understood not wanting to emphasize G-d's wrath but isn't our acknowledgement of it essential to living a torah-observant life?
 
Rav Brody answered that there are, in fact, many who think this way and practice different customs such as reading the rest of the Torah portion louder than normal and the tochachas at a normal volume.
 
This past week, as I sat in shul, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the portion being read in a distinctly louder voice. Then as we arrived at the tochachas the baal koreh reverted back to that nearly inaudible tone. I was disheartened that I hand't gotten a chance to experience a new custom that I wholeheartedly understood and appreciated. “Perhaps we, the Jewish people of today,” I dejectedly thought, “just can’t bring ourselves to recognize the imminent dangers in front of us.”
 
I suddenly realized I had experienced that depressing emotion elsewhere recently. While vacationing up north I noticed the mayor of my hometown, Antonio Villaraigosa, at the Democratic National Convention on the muted TV screen in front of me. I turned up the volume having no clue as to what he was talking about. As it turns out, the mayor of Los Angeles and this year’s DNC chairman, was taking a vote on returning “Jerusalem as the capital of Israel” and a reference to “G-d” to the DNC platform. How and why it was removed remains a mystery, although there is no lack of theories.
 
However, whether you believe it was just a shameful gaffe or that the President had it intentionally removed so as to play the hero by demanding it be put back in, the story of the omission is merely a side-show to the larger and far more terrifying aspect of the DNC platform vote.
 
I had turned the volume up just in time to hear the chairman explain that a two-thirds vocal vote was needed to return the language back to the platform. Since the president had insisted it be restored no speed-bumps were anticipated. But then, after a hardy round of “I’s”, the LA mayor asked for the “no’s”. The scream was equally as loud if not louder. I felt a pit in my stomach begin to form. A momentarily surprised Villaraigosa asked for the vote two more times, both times the “no’s” showed no signs of dissipation. Villaraigosa then decided he had heard enough, announcing that the vote had passed even though it was abundantly clear it hadn’t. He was summarily booed off the stage.
 
I stood in front of the TV shocked and saddened. I knew that not everyone agreed with Israel on its policies and I knew that the Democrat party had been especially hard on Israel of late. I even knew that the State Department, under the deplorable Hillary Clinton, had been spending more time policing the every-day idioms that supposedly free Americans use than on dealing with the genocidal regime in Teheran. However, to hear such a clear and audible group of Americans, at a gathering predicated on the wonderful democracy I grew up surrounded by, screaming their opposition to the Jewish state’s right to determine its own capital left me stunned, scared and downtrodden.
 
I do not know how any Jew could remain a Democrat after this ominous event. I do not care that the president demanded that the language be returned. How on earth was it removed without his knowledge in the first place?! Why has his administration consistently refused to answer what the White House recognizes as Israel’s capital?
 
I do not care that Antonio Villaraigosa, whom I voted for despite my being a staunch conservative, primarily due to his tremendous work with the Los Angeles Jewish community, forced the vote through. The DNC vote should never have come to that! This was the ultimate gathering of the Democrat party, an event covered internationally and the people representing the party of ‘hope and change’ were content to let the world hear their pure disdain for the Jewish state.
 
The yelling of the “no’s” shook my Jewish soul to its very core.
 
So again I ask, “How can a self-respecting Jew continue to participate in a party so comfortable with its hate for Israel?”
 
Sometimes warnings come to us in a whisper, like the tochachas. Other times they come to us in a scream. It is now just days before Rosh Hashana, when we blow the shofar to awaken us to repent. I truly believe the screaming of the “no’s” was a modern day shofar , meant to be blown in the face of every sleeping Jew, bellowing “you cannot sweep this under the rug any longer! This ever-growing hate for Israel and the Jews, like the tochachas, must be internalized no matter how daunting! It must be acknowledged that in places like America and EVEN the Holy Land the seeds of Israel’s destruction can and are being sowed!”
 
Can the Jewish people see the forest for the trees and understand that if we do not change course we will be in for an unrivaled world of pain and suffering?
 
We must wake up before it is too late. Jews must vote with their Jewish souls this election, not their liberal conscience, and NO they are not one and the same. We must show the Democrats who screamed to the high heavens “no” to Israel’s rights to self-determination that there are ramifications for unjustified hate for the Jewish nation and their state.
 
We must not fail in this if we hope to ensure that Israel be a name always yelled in blessing and never whispered as a curse.  
 
 
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