By Jeff Dunetz
The promise of September 13, 1993 was never fulfilled.
Will the hopes of September 13 2003 be realized?
That famous handshake on September 13, 1993. When I close my eyes, I can still see the “reformed” terrorist Arafat, grasping the palm of Prime Minister Rabin. I remember saying the Shehechayanu prayer, thanking G-d for keeping me alive and letting me see this glorious day. The whole world was full of optimism---Even the usually dour Warren Christopher stepped up to the microphone gloat, saying that the impossible was now possible. Many of us (including me) let ourselves believe that 45 years of attacks against Israel peace were over, peace was finally within arms reach. Once the agreement was with the Palestinians was finalized, there was no excuse remaining, the other Arab nations had to fall in line.
Ten years later the promise of “Oslo” has faded. Rabin is dead, the peace process has been replaced by homicide bombers, anti-Semitism is once again in-vogue with in “polite” European circles, and the word terrorism is no longer used to describe Jewish children being blown up by homicide bombers. The optimism of September 13, 1993 is gone replaced by a foreboding, a sense of isolation, that the whole world is against the Jewish people.
The afternoon September 13, 2003 exactly ten years after that handshake, I sat in Shul. My daughter Alexa was on the Bimah about to become Bat Mitzvah. Soon I would be called up in front of the entire congregation of family and friends to say the Shehecayanu prayer. That was going to be a problem. Despite bursting with pride over great job my daughter was doing, I was getting very sad. Shehechaynu was the furthest thing from my mind. All I could think about was that other September 13 ten years ago. How do I know that the hope and promise of this September 13 wouldn’t be blown away like the one a decade ago? I so wanted the optimism of this date to be borne out.
As my daughter began to read Parsha Nizvatim form the Torah, I couldn’t stop thinking about Nava Applebaum. Earlier in the week she and her father were at a café in Jerusalem the night before she was to get married. One of Arafat’s terrorists came in wearing a bomb --- and they were killed. Nava was buried on what was supposed to be one of the happiest days of her life.
What would it be like ten years from now when, G-d willing, my daughter was ready to be a bride. Will terrorists who are afraid of peace, still send children to blow up girls and their fathers the night before their wedding day? In the United States, will Anti-Semitism be tolerated under the smoke screen of anti-Zionism, like it is now in much of the rest of the world? What of the Jewish people, after almost 5,000 years will we finally be destroyed via a combination of terror, anti-Semitism and our own indifference to what kept us around for all those years—the Torah?
Alexa began to walk toward the pulpit to deliver her Bat Mitzvah D’var Torah. After that I would have to make my pubic prayer. But was there really something to be thankful for? The future looked so bleak. I prayed that G-d would give me a sign something to make me feel good about my daughter’s future. Something to make me want to say the Shehecaynu prayer.
Alexa was so confident as she began to talk about the message of Moshe’s final teaching to the Jewish people. He reminded the people that the Torah was not in heaven, that it was in our hearts and with-in our reach. She concluded by saying:
though it seems like a very difficult job to live by the Torah and learn all of
its lessons, it’s not. Like the Rabbis said, it is our job to bring the Torah
into our lives and G-d never gives us a job we can’t do. As I stand
here tonight on the Bimah, having read my Torah portion, I realize what it means
to become a Bat Mitzvah. It means that it is now my job to find ways to
bring the Torah into my own life. And it means that I can do it.”
four words did it. “I can do
it.” There! That’s the reason for the optimism. Ten years from now the world
we will be better off, because of my daughter and children just like her.
is a story that when G-d offered the Torah to the Jewish people, he asked for
collateral, something to guarantee that Torah was being given to the right
people. At fist the Jews offered
all their jewels, but G-d said it wasn't enough.
We offered all of our livestock, “a pittance” said
the Lord. Finally the Jewish
people offered their children. They
promised to teach the Torah to their children for all the generations to come.
Every child that confidently steps up to the Torah and says to G-d , “I’m
ready to do this, and I CAN DO IT,
” keeps that promise. September 13th is once again a day of hope because every
child that learns to love and honor the teaching that G-d revealed to us through
Moses 3,000 years ago, it brings us one step closer to the promise of peace.
beamed as the Rabbi blessed Alexa. She
had worked very hard and come so far, but now I knew that there was much reason
to be optimistic. Because she had
chosen the right road -- Torah.
words swelled out of my mouth like a dam bursting :
Atah Hashem, Elokaynu Melech Haolam, Shehecaynu v’key’manu v’higi-amu la-zman
are you our G-d, who rules the universe, granting us life, sustaining us and
enabling us to reach this day.