Painting by Yoram Raanan.
(photo credit: YORAM RAANAN)
Painting by Yoram Raanan.
‘Guard all the commandments which I am commanding you today, and it shall be on the day when you pass through the Jordan to the land which the Lord your God is giving to you, that you shall set up for yourselves large stones… And you shall write upon them all the words of this Torah clarified completely… These are the words of the Covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to contract with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, in addition to the Covenant He contracted with them at Horeb.’
—(Deut. 27:1-2,8; 28:6)
This period, in which the US Congress is preparing to vote on “the Iranian deal,” is one of the most momentous in Jewish, American and world history. To explain why I believe this to be the case, it is necessary to clarify completely the implications of this “additional’ Covenant of the Twelve Stones – 12 imprecations for human beings (ish) who defy universal moral and ethical laws. These stones were erected at the point of entry to and exit from the Land of Israel, at the moment when a freed Hebrew people are to become a nation within their own homeland.
Abraham was mandated by God at the very beginning of his election to become a great nation in order to bring blessing to all the families of the earth (Gen.12:2, 3). And indeed, three chapters later, in the vision of the Covenant between the Pieces, God “covenants” or contracts with Abraham eternal seed (a nation is a family writ large) and a national homeland, complete with safe borders. Yes, three powerful nations (symbolized by the three animals in the vision) will attempt to enslave and destroy the Abrahamic progeny, but the bird Israel (smaller, yet empowered to fly above the more powerful animals close to God in the heavens) will emerge victorious at the end (Gen. 15).
Now just before the Covenant, Abraham gets involved in a “world war” in the Fertile Crescent: He comes to the aid of five nations who had been terrorized by four marauding nations who had invaded and subjugated them, under the leadership of Chedorlaomer the tyrant, ruler of Elam (today Persia, Iran).
Abraham almost single-handedly wins the war and frees those who had been taken captive – including his nephew Lot (Gen. 14; the Covenant came only “after these things” had occurred). And lest there be any question as to the mission of Abraham, as to why he had been chosen, and as to the nature of the blessing his progeny was to bring to the world, God declares – in the context of the imminent destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, nations Abraham had freed from the terrorist grip of Chedorlaomer, but who had gone on to pervert justice internally and to subjugate their own people – “Abraham will be a great and mighty nation, and through him all the nations of the earth will be blessed; for I have known [loved, chosen] him, because he is commanding his children and his household after him that they observe the way of the Lord of love, doing acts of compassionate righteousness and moral justice…” (Gen. 18:18, 19). This is the Jewish message to the world! The very special relationship between the United States and Israel is based upon the common ideals upon which each nation was founded, freedom of every human being created in the image of God; no human dare terrorize another human. The great majority of the founding fathers of America were rooted in the Bible, conversant with the Hebrew language, and accepting of the exodus from Egypt as the model for the origin and raison d’etre of both nations. Indeed, the first seal of America, suggested by Benjamin Franklin, was a tapestry of the Splitting of the Red (Reed) Sea, the terrorizing Egyptians drowning and the freed Hebrews emerging triumphant, with the caption reading “Rebellion against Tyranny is adherence to God.”
When the United States fought Nazi Germany in the Second World War; when president Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an evil empire, putting the USSR on record as an enemy nation; when president George Bush went to war with Iraq because intelligence reported Saddam Hussein as having a stockpile of war armaments for purposes of terror; the direction of American foreign policy was clear. America has certainly made mistakes, but it always perceived itself – and so has it been perceived by the world – as the champion of freedom, democracy and peace worldwide.
Hence the tragedy of the “deal” with Iran lies not in what it says but in what it omits. At the very same time that US Secretary of State John Kerry was negotiating with Iran to lift its sanctions, to supply it with major military armaments, to provide it with billions of dollars in trade agreements, Iran was continuing to export terror to Tunisia, Syria, Yemen, Hezbollah and Hamas, Iran was burning the American flag to cries of “Death to America” and burning the Israeli flag with cries of “Death to Israel,” and the Ayatollah Khamenei was proudly touting his terrorism with great braggadocio.
Not only does this deal turn an economically struggling terrorist state into a potential nuclear power with wealth and military capacity, but it does so with the tacit complicity of the United States, which has not only sold out its former allies but is leaving itself in a position of far greater vulnerability (Iranian missiles will be able to reach American soil as well). What is even more absurd, the real inspection is slated to be done by Iran itself, and Iran hardly has a reputation for trustworthiness.
If President Barack Obama can naively believe that if we are on good speaking terms with a terrorist nation we will magically deter them from their terrorism, even though we are rewarding their terrorism, we can only hope and pray that Congress will be wiser and will prevent this Alice-in-Wonderland deal-debacle before it destroys the entire free world. Shabbat shalom Rabbi Shlomo Riskin is founder and chancellor of Ohr Torah Stone institutions and the chief rabbi of Efrat. His latest book, The Living Tree: Studies in Modern Orthodoxy, is available from Maggid Books, a division of Koren Publishers Jerusalem.