Chaverim Yekarim,

Ok, so it was not the soft lunar landing for which the project had hoped and planned for more than 8 years. It was a crash landing of sorts after Israel had become the 7th country in the world to enter the moon’s orbit. BUT…make no mistake, there is now an Israeli flag on the moon. It may be torn and tattered, but it is there.

Countless ”watch parties” sprung up to observe the historical event yesterday evening. Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin, hosted dozens of children in his Presidential home in Jerusalem for the fateful show. Once connection with the space shuttle was lost, once it became clear the attempt did not succeed, a decision lingered. How would Israel react to the obvious disappointment?

The answer soon became clear as the President began singing Israel’s national anthem, HaTikvah, and talking about Israel’s historical accomplishment. He, as did Prime Minister Netanyahu and every other Israeli leader, broadcast hope and optimism, teaching those kids, and us all, a lesson in Jewish pride and perseverance. For no small reason is the anthem called HaTikvah / The Hope. It is a hope that has accompanied our People for thousands of years and will continue to at all moments of our lives…even if things do not go as perfectly as planned.

Apart from the sheer excitement, the lunar drama provided a much-needed respite from Israel’s political drama. In nail-biting fashion, Netanyahu’s Likud Party eked out a victory and has a fairly clear path forward to forming a right-wing coalition for Israel’s 21st Knesset. Israel is, thus, headed for a 5th term with Benjamin Netanyahu at the helm, soon crowning him Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister when he surpasses Israel’s founder, David Ben Gurion, this summer.

Much has been said about the ugly tactics he used to win. Much has been said about his looming indictments and his sharp rightward swing. You can and should read much of this (especially from local sources like Times of Israel, and not from mainstream Western media.)

What I would like to add to this debate comes from our Torah portion this week, Metzora. In one of its most bizarre and fascinating episodes, we learn of an eruptive plague breaking out on a house. The priest would have to come inspect the house, diagnose the plague, and determine the house’s cure: destruction or remediation. The priest’s role has led generations of commentators to note that this plague was a physical manifestation of a spiritual infraction (thought to be a punishment for evil speech.)

As much evil speech has circulated throughout these election campaigns, I have heard many people declare there is a spiritual plague on our house in Israel. We should all disagree with this strongly. Israel’s house is still in the process of construction, and it exists in a highly hostile neighborhood. As a result, old and familiar faces are sometimes preferred to unproven ones, especially by those who live in a small country with very little margin for error. Remarkably, Israel’s robust democracy is alive and well with fair, transparent, and accessible elections.

As this election saga winds down, I think of the final image taken yesterday by the Bereshit space shuttle, a selfie with an Israeli flag and the words emblazoned, ”Am Yisrael Chai.” Indeed, the People of Israel live, and we live strong.

On this Shabbat HaGadol, this Sabbath of Greatness before Pesach, we should all take pride in the miracle that is Israel. Let us redouble our efforts to support, to visit, to learn, and to help encourage her on her path to the moon.

P.S. on a note closer to home, please join us this Saturday for an amazing Camp Shabbat and Pizza Party, led by the amazing Carly Abramson from the Institute of Jewish Life. I’ll be there in spirit and can’t wait to celebrate Pesach with y’all in a bit over a week!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Natan