Parshat Naso / Shavuot II: The US Embassy in Jerusalem

Rabbi’s Note: As promised last week, below I share my remarks from Sunday’s Shavuot Yizkor. But first a quick word about this week’s Torah portion:

Portion of the Week: Naso

Major Themes:

  • Census Taken of all Levite Familes
  • Suspicions of Infidelity in Marriage
  • Rules of Being a Nazirite
  • The Priestly Blessing
  • Dedication of the Desert Tabernacle

For more information about these intriguing subjects, join us this Shabbat morning for our regular service. We begin at 9:30 am.

Our discussion topic will be:   Should the Adulteress Woman Story Be Excised From the Torah Text?


  The following is an excerpt from my Shavuot remarks about the Embassy in Jerusalem. As not everyone will agree with me I invite ongoing dialogue…

We probably remember the army commercial with the following punchline: WE DO MORE BY 9AM THAN MOST PEOPLE DO ALL DAY

Over the past two weeks, Israel has experienced more tension than most countries face in six months:

  • Attack and retaliation in Syria
  • Severing of the Iran deal; a decision which will have impact on Israel
  • Violence in Gaza
  • Opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem

As all the above played out on the main stage, Jews celebrate the holiday of Shavuot: the spiritual marriage between the Jewish people, its God and its Torah. Shavuot, however, is also about the land which is so central to the life of our people – Eretz Yisrael. Within that land, one city stands above all others:

Ki m’ziyyon tetze Torah udvar Adonay m’rushalayim
The Torah goes forth from Zion and the word of God from Jerusalem

Jerusalem is the center of the Jewish people.

No other nation must justify or validate to the world its choice of capital city. The Embassy in Jerusalem reasserts Jewish/Israeli independence and people hood.
No one has the right to deny us what every nation deserves and is granted. Only Israel has to plead its cause. Whatever transpires in future peace negotiations, Jerusalem is inextricably attached to the Jewish people.

Whatever we think about the Embassy move one thing is clear: There is no legitimate connection between the Embassy move and the pre-designed efforts of Hamas to create chaos and violence in Gaza. The Embassy move is an excuse for renewed violence. By encouraging thousands to sprint toward the border fence, Hamas knows that either some Palestinians will be killed by Israeli soldiers defending their nation or else some will break through and go on murderous rampages in Israeli settlements close to Gaza. Whatever our thoughts about the Embassy. Hamas is not interested in an Embassy. Its sole mission is to find whatever means of destroying the State of Israel.

Now, about the Embassy:

The move was long overdue. Casting political issues aside, the Embassy in Jerusalem is no more provocative than our Embassies in Addis Ababa, Buenos Aires, Kabul, Beijing, Baghdad or Damascus. Dedicating an Embassy before Shavuot reminds us that the WORD OF GOD emanates from Jerusalem, the center of world Jewry since biblical times.

That being said…

The word Jerusalem comes from the three Hebrew letters shin, lamed and mem. When combined these letters can form the word SHALEM or SHALOM. To some, moving the Embassy is an expression of wholeness and completion. Jerusalem as a whole; in its physical fullness belongs exclusively to the Jewish people. Thus the connection between the city and the word SHALEM, or full/complete.

However, for many people, who certainly embrace Jerusalem as the Jewish physical and spiritual capital, it is Jerusalem as an expression of SHALOM/PEACE which takes priority. The Jerusalem of peace is a Jerusalem for which many Israelis aspire; a Jerusalem in an era of peaceful co-existence with Israel’s neighbors. It is a Jerusalem characterized by both spirit and survival. It is a Jerusalem which may need to be divided in a permanent agreement, but the Jerusalem belonging to Israel will nevertheless be a true city of peace. At that time Jerusalem may not be physically whole but will be more spiritually endearing and everlasting.

East Jerusalem is essentially an Arab city. Establishing the Jerusalem of peace will mean dividing what is already divided; enabling the Palestinian people to also claim part of Jerusalem as their home. It means a different Embassy constructed there; along with the ongoing protection of all Holy Sites to be enjoyed by worshipers without fear.

Even though Israel has legitimate right to its capital; the Embassy move may be satisfying short term but dangerous in long term: It has given Hamas another excuse to incite rioting and for that rioting to be covered in all media outlets throughout world. Much of the media information is false or inaccurate, but effective.

This Embassy, though long overdue, was not intended as a homage to any political leader. My feeling is that the Embassy must reflect Israel’s right to its capital, rather than being regarded as an expression of political bravado.

As for the three religious officials who spoke at the dedication: One was an evangelical bigot with a history of inflammatory remarks, and a second bore a history of questionable statements. The third was a Habad rabbi; from an organization representing a small percentage of the Jewish people. That organization denies existence of Israel as a political nation. I fear that the clergy selection was a statement about political patronage; not a selection representative of the Jewish people.

Marc Schulman of Newsweek wrote the following: None of the good news of the past week makes us truly safe. The opening of the Embassy in Jerusalem may be a wonderful symbolic act, but it does not impact anything on the ground, and some believe it might complicate future negotiations.

So, as we celebrate Matan Torah (the giving of Our Torah) and glorify the city which reflects the eternal sentiments of Am Yisrael, we need to distinguish between the desirable and the imperative:

We desire Jerusalem, the Complete City, eternally belonging to the Jewish people. But first we need to secure Jerusalem as the City of Peace, the city in which an Embassy may be long overdue but in which a lasting peace between mortal enemies has not yet been achieved. Pursuing that Jerusalem will entail painful compromise and perhaps a new generation of leaders. That Jerusalem is somewhat remote but hopefully achievable. That Jerusalem is what I pray for on this Shavuot festival.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Klayman


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