Parshat Haazinu: Deuteronomy 32:1-52; II Samuel 22:1-51.
Dr. David Luchins, a professor at Philadelphia’s Touro College and frequent lecturer at Aish HaTorah, recalled the following story.
On the morning after Yom Kippur on September 1993, U.S. Sen. Daniel Moynihan and the professor had a private meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. At the end, Moynihan thanked Peres for his “strong support for the Aish HaTorah Jerusalem Fellowships.”
Peres grew animated. “Senator, let me tell you why I support the Jerusalem Fellowships and yeshivot. More than 60 years ago, when I was 8 years old, I was already an ardent Labor Zionist. I had a religious uncle who was upset by my lack of faith and dragged me to the village of Radin to meet the venerable Yisroel Meir Kagan, also known as the Chofetz Chaim.
“The old rabbi and I had quite a talk. He quoted Maimonides and I responded with Marx; he quoted Talmud and I quoted [Zionist leader Menachem] Ushishkin.
“Then he began to cry and put his hands on my head and blessed me saying, ‘The Almighty gave me a long life, He should give you the same. You should go as you wish to Israel and become a great leader of the Jewish people; but remember, my child, that you can’t have a Jewish state without the Almighty and the Almighty’s Torah.”
At this point, Peres grew quite emotional. “Senator,” he declared, “yesterday was Yom Kippur. I do not fast all day. I do not spend the day in synagogue. But every Yom Kippur night I think of that old rabbi and realize how true his words were.” Peres knew that Israel and the Jewish people understood that Torah is relevant to all Jews and is crucial to their future.
Throughout Jewish history, ideologies have arisen to replace Torah. Today, it is tikkun olam, repairing the world,
I believe that tikkun olam has become the new “ism” to replace the essence of what it means to be Jewish. We are, however, ignoring its true meaning. The complete phrase in the Aleinu prayer is repair the world “with the glory of God.” The greatest Jewish contribution to the world is the idea of one God, the creator and sustainer of the world, who loves you.
Peres knew that nothing can replace Torah and mitzvot; they are the only guarantors of a family’s Jewish continuity. Let’s make tikkun olam about God.
As Lori Palatnik, founding director of Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project, says, “It’s time for the Jewish people to once again be the God people. This is tikkun olam.”
This article by Rabbi Simcha Tolwin originally appeared in the Jewish News on Oct. 13, 2016.