Israeli Values Religious Voices

Letter 56 - Rabbi Sigal Asher

To the State of Israel and all its inhabitants,

For Israel’s 75th birthday, I wish us, as a society, the ability to change

We are used to changing our lives: build, create, make. This is how we’ve established this country. When we interact with others, we often want them to change: our partners, our children…We believe that if people who think differently than us will change, everything will be better. I want to wish us that, along with the change we work hard to create around us, we will also have the ability to change ourselves. Those who had an intimate relationship in their life know that choosing to live with a partner requires an ability to change. Holding on to what we have, in an intimate relationship, leads to suffocation. Culture must change, because culture that doesn’t change - degenerates.  The “Halakhah” (Jewish Law) also changes, according to those who walk with it, often slowly, sometimes faster, but always changes, no matter what. 

It is easy to listen to those who think like me, and it’s difficult to listen to those who think that I am wrong. Growth requires change. We cannot grow, nor physically or spiritually, unless we agree to change. God told Avram: “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you” (Genesis 12, 1). Avram needed to go, without knowing where he was going. 

The ability to change requires us to step out of our comfort zone and go towards the unknown. Going towards uncertainty is scary and insecure, but the process of getting there requires us to be willing not to remain the same. The Divine Decree to Avram teaches us: to step out of the way we think, leave everything that is familiar to us, without knowing where we are headed. In addition to that, the famous saying : “go and learn” gives us a promise: if you go, you will learn. In order to learn, we need to step out of our comfort zone and be willing to change. If we succeed to leave the place that is familiar to us, then we will definitely learn. And maybe the very fact of going out is already learning. The willingness to go out requires an open mind, and when our mind is open, the boundaries of our inner world are open and we are capable of allowing ourselves to see things from a different point of view. We might find out that the unknown land is a place we want to be at, sometimes: “If you go out, you get to wonderful places” (Dr. Seuss).

I wish we will have the openness to change by listening, out of respect to who and what we are not. That we will to be able to change our opinions, not be stuck in our beliefs, to accept the world as it changes, and be capable both to change reality and be changed by it. I wish, for a change, that we will not ask to change others, but be willing to be changed ourselves. To be touched by others and to allow others to touch us, to allow different opinions influence and change us. In the words of Amos Oz: “It is permissible to both touch and change, on the condition that you are open to be touched and changed. The condition is: Love”.  May we keep an open mind, and thus, we will be able to heal the rifts and heal the wounds.

With love,

Rabbi Sigal Asher

Rabbi Sigal Asher, ordained as a secular humanist Rabbi by “Tmura”, is a fellow at the Beit Midrash for Israeli Rabbis at the Shalom Hartman Institute and Hamidrasha at Oranim. Sigal works in the social justice and educational departments at “Rabbis for Human Rights”. She lives in Haifa with her wife and their daughter. Rabbi Asher officiates life circle events, as well as serving as a chaplain.

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