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Jewish Leadership

January 24, 2001
2001 The Temple Institute, Rabbi Chaim Richman - All Rights Reserved

Tonight the Jewish people mark Rosh Chodesh, the New Moon, and we begin the Hebrew month of Shvat. It was on this day, the first day of Shvat, that Moses began to recite the book of Deuteronomy to the people of Israel - "on the other side of the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses began to explain this Torah... "

This process continued for 37 days, until his death on the seventh day of the month of Adar. Moses rebuked the Children of Israel for their acts of rebellion against G-d during their forty-year desert sojourn. He taught them once again about many of the commandments that had already been stated at Mount Sinai and at the Tent of Meeting, as well as new commandments. He also presented Israel with the blessings and curses, and prepared them to inherit the land of Canaan, blessing them before his death.

Our sages have taught that the first day of Shvat - tomorrow - is a day equal in greatness to the day that the Torah was given on Mount Sinai; every year, this day is especially conducive for the hearts of our people to be opened to the word of G-d.

For the people of Israel, the selfless leadership of Moses is the benchmark of what it means to be a leader, for all subsequent generations. The true Jewish leadership that he exemplified was based on his unique mixture of unsurpassed humility tempered by unsurpassed greatness; above all, every fiber of his being vibrated with total compassion for his people. He lived his life for Israel, and it was this quality of compassion that made him ready to give up his life for Israel: "And now, if you will forgive their sin - and if not, blot me out of the book which You have written" (Ex. 32:32).

But politicians are the opposite of leaders. Today, leadership is a concept unfamiliar to us, and it would be profane to even mention the word in the same context as above.

Ehud Barak must have a very low opinion of his people, not to mention their intelligence: He has broken every promise he made to the people of Israel, and he has crossed every red line he established for himself. Despite continuing violence against Israelis, and in a bid purely orchestrated to improve his chances in the February 6th elections, his "peace team" has been engaged in marathon talks in Taba, with the fervent hope of achieving some sort of agreement that he can wave before the public. According to reports emerging yesterday from the negotiations, senior Palestinian sources were "expressing much optimism." This in itself should be a reason for concern for every Jew that cares about the future, for the Palestinians have only expressed optimism when Israel is ready to concede to all their demands. And so yesterday, the Prime Minister's bureau sought to smooth over reports that Israel was proposing a type of joint or international sovereignty over the holy places in Jerusalem. In a statement, the bureau said that the Jewish holy places will remain under Israeli sovereignty, the connection between the Jewish people and these places will be protected, and freedom of access will be guaranteed for everyone to the holy places.

But we cannot be expected to believe this, and it could be only the most cynical of politicians who would be arrogant enough to think that we would. For the holiest of all Jewish holy places, the Temple Mount, is today the most unprotected site in the State of Israel... and under the watchful eyes of Ehud Barak, its connection to the Jewish people has been torn asunder. Moreover, Jews have no freedom of access, whatsoever, to this, their holiest place.

Yesterday, archaeologists met with the Chief Rabbinate in an effort to coordinate activities to stop the Temple Mount excavations. Sephardic Chief Rabbi Bakshi-Doron asked Prime Minister Barak to establish a national committee of inquiry to investigate the desecration.

According to the archaeologists' view of the controversy over the Wakf's activities on the Temple Mount, Ehud Barak has not only turned a blind eye, but given his tacit approval... thus he bears ultimate responsibility for this destruction. These activities include not only unsupervised digging and construction, and the destruction of antiquities hailing from the Holy Temple, but also, according to archaeologist Elat Mazar, plans to construct the world's largest mosque, underneath the Temple Mount complex. Professor Mazar, and other members of the Committee Against the Destruction of Antiquities, say that a tunnel is being dug in the southern section of the Mount, underneath the Al Aksa Mosque in the direction of Solomon's Stables. After this was reported on Israel Radio, police officials visited the Mount and inspected the area, and Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben Ruby sought to put the matter to rest by stating "I can categorically say that there is no tunnel being dug on the Temple Mount." But archaeologists from the Committee, unimpressed by official Police denial, say that the police are professionally unqualified to make the inspection. These archaeologists say that they possess "irrefutable evidence" that this tunnel exists... photographs made secretly. This writer can verify that this is the truth.

Last night, just as reports indicated that the Taba peace negotiations were making real progress (read: far-reaching Israeli concessions), it was discovered that two Israelis had been murdered, in cold blood, in the center of the Palestinian-controlled town of Tulkarm. Ehud Barak, desperate as he is for an agreement, knew that the people of Israel would not tolerate the talks' continuation, and so they were temporarily suspended... at least until the victims are buried. At this hour, it is unknown when the talks will be reconvened, but senior Palestinian officials report that the Israelis have assured them that the talks will resume immediately.

As we reflect during this period on the singular leadership of Moses, we can find another message, this one regarding our own contemporary style of "leadership:"

"Wherefore hear the word of the L-rd, scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem. Because you have said, 'We have made a covenant with death, and we have made a contract with the pit; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come to us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood we have hid ourselves'." (Is. 28:14).

Rabbi Chaim Richman

PO Box 31876 Jerusalem, Israel 97500



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