Dvar Torah from Ashkelon, Israel

By Lee Sherman
Baltimore-Ashkelon Parnership Committee Member

(Written just before Shabbat)
As I write this week, I am in Ashkelon, Israel, only six kilometers from Gaza, and, therefore, less than 100 miles from Egypt.  I have just watched President Mubarak’s speech in which he announced he is not leaving his position.  The news is reporting great unrest in the square, with the likelihood that the crowd could get more aggressive in its demonstration.  Some of the reporters on the scene are describing Mubarak as “delusional,” that he does not appreciate or recognize the will of the people. 

This week we continue our Torah reading in the book of Exodus.  Although there is some debate as to the path of the Israelites on their journey to Israel, there is no disagreement that at this point of the reading, they are still in the Sinai Peninsula, in what is modern day Egypt.  In Tetzavvah, we read about the ascension of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood.  Although there is no democratic election, the rules and guidelines that God directs to the priests make it clear that they have very specific responsibilities so they can perform their duties as intermediaries between the people and God.  The descriptions of the priestly vestments are not about decoration, but about an outward commitment to the task.  We read in a later parashah what happens to Aaron’s sons when they do not perform as expected.  We have high expectations for our leaders, as we should for people who can affect so many lives.

There is great uneasiness in this part of the world about what will happen in Egypt.  The people I have spoken to in Israel are concerned about who, and what, will replace President Mubarak, who has kept the peace with Israel for over 30 years.  We know that Egypt has great challenges ahead.  We pray that they will get the kind of leadership that responds to their concerns, brings peace to the region, and reflects the leadership principles contained in the Torah.

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