We read this morning a very important chapter in Jewish history. It is the sad story regarding the death of the two sons of Aharon. It happened at the time of public services performed by the Kohanim (priests). When the Kohanim brought the fire to the altar, the torah recognized the fire as an alien fire. Fire was brought down from heaven, and consumed the two sons of Aharon. Why did it happen? The Rabbis tell us that there was inappropriate behavior. One of the explanations that the rabbis tell us that there was a public debate while they were doing the services. It was a dispute either between them and Moses, or between them and others, but undoubtedly, it was unacceptable behavior.
Let me share with you some experiences that I had while I was in the Military services in Israel. I was in the Lebanon war; it is very hard to see young people get killed to face casualties. One friend lost his hand, another lost his leg. It was horrible to get stuck in the middle of the mud during that war, not knowing who was your friend or who was your enemy. There were six groups that were fighting. The Arab Shia verses the Arab Sunna against the group called Amal against the terrorist group called, Chizabballa against the group called Falanga against the South Lebanon army. And we the Israeli army, were in the middle of all this.
At that time, the life of the citizens of north Israel was miserable. There were constant attacks from south Lebanon and people were forced to leave the shelters, not just for one week or one day but also for months. The circumstance forced us to go there and try to expunge of the evil terrorism. This distrust of those groups led us to a bloody war that caused many casualties. But today, I look back and I am confident that the fact that there was public debate over whether we should go to war or not cost us a tremendous amount of human life. What happened was that the Minister of Defense, Chief of Staff, and the Prime Minister, instead of concentrating on how to lead us to complete our mission and finish the war, they were forced to deal with the other party which created public debate.
At that time, some leaders tried to help by shouting, "Please put the debate aside, we are in a state of war, we have casualties let’s stop the argument and let the troops do their job". But, no one was listening to them. I remember vividly the trauma that this public debate caused us. As an officer and a soldier, and I have no doubt in my mind that precious lives of our soldiers was paid as the price of this stubborn public dispute.
The two sides that were for and against the war created great tension, stress, and war between brothers which only brought disgrace. And we as soldiers needed leadership. We did not have the authority to give clear orders because of the public debate. We were about 30 miles before the city of Beirut, the capitol of Lebanon, but we got stuck there because on one in the high authority was ready and willing to give us clear instructions.
All of that was a result of this friction and argument between the left verse right parties. Isn’t that a terrible feeling of loosing young soldiers not because they fight for their country but because of the public debate between the leaders?
We, Americans are now in a state of war. I am definitely not taking sides on being for or against the war. I do recognize that we are in a state of war and our mission is to avoid public debate at this time. The war is a fact, our troops are in Iraq and I believe that the last thing we want to do is to hurt our troops. The fact that we are debating for or against the war only helps our enemies. The generals at this time should concentrate on their mission and how to finish the war. They should not waste their time and energy on this public debate. Our soldiers who are in the midst of performing the highest public service should have the high morale and feeling that we, the American people, love them and support them. At this time we should send a word of encouragement and gift of support to our soldiers in Iraq. We need to increase our prayer for the welfare of our soldiers and for peace.
The lesson that we learn from this week’s torah portion is that spilling the precious blood of the two sons of Aharon can be avoided if we learn how to behave at the time of service.
In Yiddish there is a word called, "Mensh", meaning a person who behaves himself and is above the situation.
Let us now make a prayer and recite together some Psalms. We believe that these prayers have direct benefit to our soldiers. Now there is a great fire from the Iraqi cities, let’s pray for the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah: "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation neither shall man learn war anymore". Let’s learn from the mistake from the past and follow the slogan United We Stand. God bless America, Amen.