Sermon for August 30, 2003 Parsha Shoftim Rabbi Moshe P. Weisblum
There is a well-known story by a fellow by the name of Jacobson, a good friend of the late President Truman. Before the approbation of the State of Israel, President Truman was under great pressure to make a decision either way whether to recognize the new nation of Israel. One of his oldest friends was Mr. Jacobson, who called the night before the decision to President Truman, asking for a private appointment. The President, replied, "No problem Mr. Jacobson, with one condition--we will not discuss the issue of the State of Israel." Mr. Jacobson was acquiesced.
According to the tale, Mr. Jacobson came, and it was a five minute meeting, there were no words exchanged, but his eyes were full of emotion and tears. President Truman described this moment as a crucial moment that helped to enlighten his perspective--a great revelation he received without any speaking taking place.
In this week’s Torah portion there is a prohibition against cutting trees in vain. The Torah states that when you go to war against your enemies, do not cut any trees. Only the trees that really must be cut, or one that is not fruitful, this is the only one that should be cut by force of circumstance. The Torah explains that for humans, it is like the fall of the tree….
According to the Torah commentaries, the tree is a tree of life. In the book of Psalms it is written, "The trees of the field will clap their hands (to God)." Jewish mysticism explains that not just animals, but trees and living creatures have souls as well as life. The issue is that we as humans only recognize life only if there is another human speaking. But there are many creatures in the world that can deliver a message of life without speaking; The essence of life and the importance of life is the foundation of Judaism. We say that in times of joy, we raise our glass and proclaim, in a word that says it all, "L’Cheim," meaning for life. We love life and that is all we ask of the world. Just let us live.
The Hamas leader said to the reporter something that captured the essence of the difference between our views of life compared to the Muslim view of life. He said, "Jews love life more than any other people and they prefer not to die." To this Hamas leader, the Jews’ love of life is a weakness. The leader of Al Quaeda said after 9/11, "The Americans love Pepsi-Cola. We love death."
All of this boils down to the importance of the Torah commandments of the high view of life. We are close to the High Holidays, so let me close with this prayer that we recite many times:
Please God, remember us for life,
O King who desires life and
inscribe us in the Book of Life,
for your sake, O God of life.
Anything is a life, from the small creature, to trees and humans, they are all creatures of life. They all have a Godly soul and we have to continue with life