In plan language: Cast a giant shadow

Present-day choices echo deep into the future, and the failure to anticipate the ramifications of what we do today can result in a bitter harvest tomorrow.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (photo credit: ATTA KENARE / AFP)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
(photo credit: ATTA KENARE / AFP)
A short time ago, two brothers came to see me, seeking a rabbinic solution to a serious family squabble.
It seems that while the other siblings were managing to support themselves quite nicely, one of the brothers had fallen on hard times and needed financial help. So his parents decided to buy him an apartment, saving him a good deal of money. Years passed, and so did the parents, one after the other. As the once-indigent brother was now doing fine, his brothers and sisters insisted that the value of his apartment be deducted from the inheritance. But the brother was vehemently opposed, and so the bickering began.
“Why should he receive a full share of the inheritance, plus a valuable apartment?!” argued one brother, speaking for the rest of his siblings.
“But this apartment was a gift to me from Mom and Dad, with no conditions, while I was struggling to get by,” countered the other brother. “Why don’t you consider yourselves lucky that you didn’t have to depend on other people’s help to survive? Why punish me for my bad fortune?” A thorny argument indeed, but the decision at which I ultimately arrived is not the point of this story. What struck me most about the dispute – beyond its being yet another reminder that money and mishpaha rarely mix well – was how short-sighted the parents had been. Could they not see that they were sowing the seeds of discord by favoring one child over another? Could they not have put a clause in their will to deduct the value of the apartment from the eventual inheritance, thereby giving each child an equal share? “Who is wise?” asks Ethics of the Fathers.
“He who sees that which is yet to be.”
The decisions we make in life cast a long shadow. Present-day choices echo deep into the future, and the failure to anticipate the ramifications of what we do today can result in a bitter harvest tomorrow.
THAT IS one of the saddest dimensions of the ill-conceived pact with Iran. Oh, the spin-meisters will tell you that this deal makes Israel safer in the near and distant future, that sanctions can be reinstated, that Iran will slowly moderate, etc. But we know that’s just politician- talk for “We need this deal now, and to hell (literally) with what comes later.” US President Barack Obama desperately craves some international success before stepping down, if only to validate the Nobel Prize he received for nothing at all. Secretary of State John Kerry, for his part, must take something of substance to the voters if and when he challenges Hillary Clinton next year for the Democratic presidential nomination.
And the rest of the P5-ers? Well, they’re tired of waiting. They’re itching to get a slice of the huge Iranian market, fueled by the oil money that will now be pouring in – thanks in large part to their rush to judgment.
They’re all playing the “short game.”
But Israel is playing a different game.
We’ve been around a long, long time – longer than any of the other players on this board, with the exception of the Chinese. We’re not just thinking of next year, or five years from now, or even a decade from now. Time goes by quickly, especially in historical terms; we’re concerned about our national welfare when all the restraints and inspections and safeguards have expired, when all the sanctions are lifted and the Iranians are free to go about their wicked ways and implement their nefarious designs.
In short, we care about our grandkids no less than we care about ourselves.
The prime minister is absolutely to be commended for raising the issues and fighting the good fight in protesting this accord. But the Israeli government, sad to say, hasn’t always been the most visionary, either. We erred mightily when we allowed Noam Schalit and his media-monsters to pressure us into succumbing to all of Hamas’s outrageous demands, agreeing to a disastrous deal to free his son Gilad that unleashed a thousand murderers on our citizenry. Six innocent Jews have already been murdered by terrorists who were freed in that lopsided “exchange,” and more are sure to follow. I have no doubt that the maximalist conditions Iran imposed upon the weak-kneed United States and Europeans were directly inspired by Hamas’s success in twisting our own arms.
And the pressure-cooker that we call Har Habayit (the Temple Mount), just waiting to explode and bring the world down upon us? That is a crisis precipitated long ago, way back in 1967, when Moshe Dayan foolishly handed the Temple Mount keys to officials of the Muslim Wakf, among the most violent Jew-haters on the planet. Now, half a century later, Jews can visit our holiest site only at risk to their lives, while the Arabs relentlessly destroy thousands of precious antiquities under the Temple Mount in their feverish desire to revise history and remove all evidence of our glorious past in Jerusalem. Had we immediately established joint access and prayer rights at the site when we had the chance – as we did successfully at the Cave of the Patriarchs – we might have avoided the coming conflagration.
The fact is, all of the pressing issues in this country – education, the recently discovered natural gas and oil fields, army service, transportation, housing – need to be examined with a telescope, and not just a microscope. Otherwise, the band-aid will keep falling off and the wound will never heal.
THERE IS a story about a wise king who wanted a home for himself and his family. So he chose three of the finest architects in his kingdom, gave each a million gold coins, and commissioned them to build a palace; he would then choose the winning entry.
The first architect thought to himself, “Why should I use up all this money? I can cut a few corners here, use second-class materials there, and in the end I can still build something decent and save half the money for myself!” The second architect reasoned, “I will build a fine palace for the king, but I don’t have to use up every single piece of gold. I will make it attractive, sturdy and functional, but still have money left when I am done, and I will return that to the king. He will surely be pleased with my skill, my ingenuity – and my frugality!” The third architect decided, “My king has requested that I build him a palace, and he has given me a huge budget to do so. I am determined to make it the very best palace that I possibly can; I will spare no expense whatsoever, I will take no shortcuts. I will use every last gold coin to create a truly magnificent edifice, a structure that will last forever, that will hold not just this king, but many generations of the royal family to come.”
When the three architects were finally done, the king came to inspect their work. He carefully walked around each palace, taking note of the firmness of the roof, the strength of the walls and the doors, the plumbing, the lighting, the furnishings and the aesthetics.
Then he said to the architects, “I appreciate all the work that each of you has put into this project. And my reward is the same to each one of you. Starting tomorrow, you and your families will move into the palace that you have constructed, and you will live there for the rest of your lives!” As we continue to build this old-new land, we – architects every one of us – would be wise to understand that we shall be living in this palace for a long, long time. So we had better think hard and be smart about it, and make it the very best palace that we possibly can.
The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra’anana.