When difficult decisions are forced upon us

Jewish history is full of situations in which communities or individuals were forced to make difficult and painful decisions in order to continue their commitment to Jewish life and community.

There is the story of Rabbi Yohanan Ben Zakkai. When the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans was coming to its inescapable conclussion, he chose to leave the city with all its sanctity adn the Temple to establish a Yeshivah in Yavneh for the sake of ensuring the continuity of the Jewish people and its dedication to the teachings of the Torah.

In 1263, Nahmanides was forced to participate in the Disputation of Barcelona with Dominican Pablo Christiani, a Jewish convert to Christianity. He did not want to participate, but was ordered to do so by King James I of Aragon. Non compliance would have meant the expulsion of the Jews from Barcelona or worse.

Following the Alhambra Decree, Spanish Jews were forced to chose between Conversion, Expulsion or Death. Many chose to formally become Christians while keeping their Jewish practices in secret; others (close to 200,000) chose to leave the land where their ancestors had lived for over 1,000 years rather than abandon Judaism. There were also those who chose to sacrifice themselves "Al Kiddush HaShem" (For the Sanctification of His Name).

In addition to these and other examples of momentous historical decisions, there are the not so grandiose decisions made by our people throughout history of leaving the land in which they were born to seek new, freer horizons, where they could live openly and proudly as Jews.

There are also the day-to-day decisions we need to make to ensure the continuity of our commitment to Judaism and the continuity of our community life. Many times we need to make decisions that leave a bitter taste in our mouth for the sake of community.

In every one of this instances, large and small, we - as a people - have always chosen LIfe. That is why, every one of us - whether born Jews or "immigrants" to the Jewish people- are Jews by Choice. In every generation our ancestors made a choice to remain Jews, sometimes in the face of unsurmountable obstacles. So do we. Those who chose to abandon our tradition, are no longer part of our community; we remain committed to the value of Life, the values of Justice and Tikkun Olam, the values of Compassion and Study.

When the day comes in which we will be forced to make painful decisions in order to preserve our tradition and our community, we need to remember what is important... not the brick and mortar, not the "Kuved" - but People.




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