Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah–B’har

Ok. here is my confession, I hate war. I think that I am in really good company in hating war. I wish that the whole world agreed with me, but, alas, it does not. Many will argue that war is inevitable. Many argue that war is actually good for the economy and for population control. I would think that there must be better ways in which to heal an economy, but no one has asked for my thoughts on this. What I do know is, and stand unwaveringly with the late Winston Churchill, “War is hell.” The way nations and gangs wage war makes them unwinnable. The other side may surrender, but only after each side and suffered devastating losses. If war is a must, we learn from the ancient East (SUN TZU), “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” Yes, our nation was created by war, but that does not mean I have to feel good that it took such horrific violence to obtain freedom.

All that said: old men create wars, we send our youth out to fight them. While I am anti-war, I respect each person who puts his/her life on the line to serve our country. I may not agree with the cause, but honoring those who are so committed (especially since it is an all-volunteer military now) is a must. When they return from fighting, I wish we did more to care for them. Soldiers come home broken physically and emotionally. If they are not suffering from a physical injury, they are still experiencing “Post Traumatic Stress.”  We train them to go to war, but do not prepare them to come home … or home for their return.

This is Memorial Day weekend, and we need to take a break from the sales and the cookouts to pay homage and offer thanks for those who died fighting for the sanctity and honor of our nation and for the freedoms we too often take for granted. Again, I absolutely believe that we have fought … even created some unwarranted wars recently, but the fact remains that we honor those who believed that they were doing what was just and right on our behalf.

As I prepared this week’s Torah portion, I could not help but remain focused on Memorial Day. As I kept trying to refocus on Torah, it hit me why I was having such a problem. This week’s portion covers a host of rules about property ownership and use. We read about the sabbatical year when we have to leave the land untouched that it might renew over the year. When I read the text that told us how we were going to eat during the year when nothing grew, light bulbs went off in my head. According to text, during the sixth year, one should gather enough for three years. One must harvest for the existing year, the year when nothing grows, and also for the year when the foods ripen (after the Sabbatical year, the trees do not automatically have ripe fruits).  Built into Torah is long range planning for sustaining life. We will not be without food, even while we cannot grow food. When it comes to life, we plan ahead.

So, why can’t we plan ahead for our soldiers who we hope and pray will return? Why can’t we create better medical, psychiatric, and recreational care? In light of the Torah portion, we really cannot justify creating risk without apriori creating the remedy. Each one of us can volunteer time at the VA or other such agencies. Each one of us can do something to help our veterans return to whole lives. Torah commands us to ensure a three-year food source in the harvest. Pirke Avot (the ethical texts of our tradition) tells us that there is no value to physical sustenance without emotional and spiritual “bread,” and the same is true in reverse. If Torah commands us to remember that food for the body must be preplanned, then so must the sustenance of the soul and spirit.

It is Memorial Day weekend. Shop if you must. Socialize and enjoy each other. Spend time remembering those who died fighting for freedom. Let’s spend some extra time thinking about how to take care of the soldiers who fought and did not die … let’s help them live. Shabbat Shalom.