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A Yom Kippur Lesson from Hamas!

By on September 29, 2014

It does not take much research to realize the true demands of Hamas on the Jewish population of Israel. Even a quick glance at the hate-filled charter of this terrorist organization will point to their desire to witness the destruction of the State of Israel. They don’t want just Gaza, or just the West Bank, but to quote Article 12 of the Hamas Covenant, they want “every inch” of Palestine under Muslim rule.  And just in case you believe the lie that since “statehood” they have abandoned their 1988 charter and have become less extreme, I would ask you to please translate the popular (and kind of catchy) chant so often heard in Anti-Israeli protests, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”.

The obvious question arises: how has Hamas led so many on the world scene to demand Israel to negotiate with an entity whose sole aim and purpose is the death of her Jewish citizens? The answer in my opinion is simple; Hamas keeps their demands straight-forward and realistic. “We just want one thing” they cry, “open up our border crossings and we will give you peace,” they claim.  A simple and realistic demand indeed. They are not stupid to publicly demand the end of Israel as a Jewish state in return for cease-fire. They are not silly enough to ask for the evil Jewish infidels of Palestine to pay the jizyeh, non-muslim tax, which their co-Jihadists demand from their non-Muslim residents that survive their brutal massacres. They are smart enough to demand realistic resolutions that will help further their goals.

So what in the world does this have to do with Yom Kippur?

To quote the Pirke Avot, “Who is wise? One who learns from everyone.” A novel way of understanding this proverb is that we can learn something even from our enemies. So let’s see what we can learn from our beloved cousins who wish our deaths.

Interestingly, the same section of Pirke Avot also asks, “Who is strong? One who conquers his/her self”. The proof text for this adage is a quote from Proverbs that says a person who controls himself is better than one who conquers an entire city. Our Sages clearly saw a parallel between a physical war battle and our own internal personal battle that we constantly go through as we try to improve ourselves.

All too often, and like in years past, we go to the front-lines of our own personal battles of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur with resolutions and demands that don’t end up sticking. I would like to ask, is there a strategy to our goals? How many of them are simple and realistic? Are we biting off more than we can chew? Are we demanding things that are hard to practically define or gauge success?

If you are going to make a resolve to just be a nicer person, realize that this is a very broad and lofty goal. Maybe a more realistic approach would be to make a resolution to try smiling at people in the morning. If you are a habitual gossiper, it would not be realistic to believe you can successfully stop this habit all at once. This goal might be more attainable if you start off by specifying a few people you will no longer speak negatively about. Similarly, if you never previously kept a strictly Kosher diet but decide to begin eating only Kosher food, it may be unrealistic to follow every detail of Kashrut overnight. The same can go with any other ritual aspects of Judaism, like Shabbat or daily drayer. In all of these cases, the sensible and pragmatic method would be a more gradual approach that would not shock you back to where you started.

To the extent that Hamas has been successful in legitimizing itself and its demands, it would not be a far stretch for us to mimic their diplomatic efforts in our own spiritual lives. However, unlike Hamas, we know that our battles are ones that are ethical and uplift our lives and hopefully the lives of others. Although the end goals of all our High Holiday resolutions are praiseworthy and important, we must still be as realistic as possible.

I’ll end with a prayer. I pray that each and everyone of us realize our true potential so that we can strategically improve ourselves. I hope that when we find ourselves approaching these Holy Days next year, we will also find ourselves and the world in a better place (and not, God forbid, where we left off.)

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About Eman Esmailzadeh

Eman Esmailzadeh is a graduate of UC Irvine where he studied mechanical Engineering and Business Management. After college, he advanced his Judaic studies at various seminaries in New York and Jerusalem. He currently is the Brand Director at Coloronix, a manufacturer of themed lighting products.