Which is greater Study or Action?

Rabbi Arthur Waskow

What to Do?


The rabbis debated, "Which is greater — Study or Action?" Akiba said, and the sages agreed: "Study — if it leads to Action." (Talmud Bavli /Kiddushin 40b.)

Within the context of the ALEPH principles that affirm the mutual need of the two families of Abraham to live peacefully and freely face-to-face in the Land, what could we do? Here are just a few suggestions, to spark the many others we can think of.

(You can also see a much more detailed article by Arthur Waskow, entitled "Peacemaking in Four Worlds," that appears on the Web at www.socialaction.com and at www.theshalomcenter.org. See also Shalom Center Website www.theshalomcenter.org, under "Seek Peace," for many other articles on the conflict.)

1. On Rosh Hashanah, we could invite a leader of the Arab-American community or a Muslim leader to speak with us about the needs and hopes of Abraham's other family.

2. On Yom Kippur, we could read from the Sefer Torah the passage in Gen 25: 7-11 about the coming-together of Isaac and Ishmael to bury Abraham and then to live together at the Well of the Living One Who Sees Me — the tikkun (healing) of the two Rosh Hashanah tales of their endangerment. Then we could discuss what this pasage teaches us.

3. Then or on any Shabbat, or every Shabbat, we could read aloud some or all the names of those Israeli Jews, Israelis of Palestinian origin, and Palestinians from the West Bank/Gaza who have died from violence during this past year. We could say all of Mourners' Kaddish or just the "Oseh shalom" paragraph, adding "v'al kol Yishmael" after "v'al kol Yisrael."

(The names of the dead of both communities, listed according to their status, the status of those who killed them, and place of death, are available on the Web at www.btselem.org. When you get to this site, click on "Current Intifada" and then on "Statistics" and then on "Persons Killed.")

When either community mourns the deaths only of those on "its side" who have been killed by those on "the other side," the outcome is often more rage, more hatred, and more death. If we can share the grief for those dead on both "sides," we are more likely to see each other as human beings, and move toward ending the violence.

4. We could learn more about the efforts at nonviolent approaches that are being made by groups like Rabbis for Human Rights, Bat Shalom, the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement in Beit Sahour, the Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information (in Jerusalem), etc.

5. After coming to our own conclusions, we could bring them to the attention of Jewish and general leaders and communities through letters to editors, resolutions of our own congregations, vigils and rallies, etc.

6. We could support those organizations in Israel or America that are working in accord with our own beliefs, by sending them tzedakah money.

7. We could invite Israelis and Palestinians to speak at our congregations.

8. We could learn the songs of peace in Hebrew, and add them to our liturgies.

— AW