Israeli Values Religious Voices

Letter 37 - Rabbi Maya Lebovitz

To the State of Israel and all its inhabitants,

The last of the seven blessings offered to a couple under the Chuppah on their wedding day suggest a hierarchy of values: love and brotherhood, peace and friendship. The value of love is the first and most basic one, without it there is no human relationship. The value of brotherhood, according to our sages, is the highest one, because it has an obligation of blood relation, of family. The real sharing comes with the value of peace, it is a connection between two different entities, which strive for perfection. It is written in our sources: “Peace is great, which is equal against everything” (Bamidbar Rabbah 11, 7).

The highest virtue is  - the value of companionship. Companionship is the glue for long days. It may be surprising. So many words are used for love, that is “fierce as death…many waters will not be able  to extinguish the love and the rivers will not be washed away…” (Song of Songs 8, 6). Nevertheless, our sages, who knew the biblical song of love, still decided to place a different hierarchy, much more human and real. In the song of songs, the wife is the beloved. Companionship and love bond together courageously. Love is a fierce emotion, like death. The testimony is the Song of Songs, its volume changes over time. It is a deep, long lasting relationship, which needs tenure and stability. This is companionship.

In Israel, companionship has another dimension, one that is shared by comrades in arms, who risk their lives together while guarding the homeland. Maybe this other dimension is inspired by the famous song by Chaim Guri, it was known to all in the first years of this country: “because such companionship will never allow our hearts to forget”. The value of companionship became officially recognzied as one of IDF’s values. Companionship is an action taken from brotherhood and devotion to the point of ferocity. Using everyday language, we often hear: “my brother” / “my sister” when addressing a friend, but the words “my companion” or “my friend” are not in use. What a shame. For Israel’s 75th birthday, I pray and hope that we will come back and live by the famous quote in Deuteronomy 19, 18: “Love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord”.


Rabbi Maya Lebovitz

Rabbi Maya Leibovitz is the first Israeli-born woman ordained as a Rabbi by the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem (1993). Previously, Maya worked as a teacher and educator in Israel and overseas. She was the head of education for the Reform movement in Israel and the coordinator of educational activities all over the world for the World Union of Progressive Judaism.

Rabbi Maya is the founding Rabbi of the Mevaseret Zion Reform congregation, which she led for 22 years. Over the past 10 summers, she has served as a Rabbi of a small congregation in Michigan. Maya is married to Menachem, together they share 4 children and 10 grandchildren. 

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