Rabbi David Wolpe’s sermon.
Rabbi David Wolpe is one of the great modern rabbis of America. Here is a part of his Rosh HaShana sermon this year.
If someone asked me “what would be your last sermon” this is the sermon I would give.In the 20th Century there were two things that happened that we knew must never recur. One is represented by Auschwitz that is the attempted destruction of an entire people, and the other is represented by Hiroshima that is the deployment of the ultimate weapon. And yet, astonishingly and horrifyingly enough, at this very moment, the world faces the possibility that those two things will be combined. And that will happen if Iran gets a nuclear bomb. You face, simultaneously, Auschwitz and Hiroshima.
And if you think I’m an alarmist I would remind you that the president of Iran, Ahmadinajad, described Israel as a cancer and an insult and called for its disappearance. But people who claim that he doesn’t wield that much power forget that the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces – let me repeat that man’s title – the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, said the Iranian nation is standing for its cause, and that is the full annihilation of Israel.
In June, the Vice President of Iran told a United Nations drug conference that the Jews are responsible for the spread of drugs around the world, that the Zionist control the drug trade, and that we have orders to kill black babies. In some ways worse of all the so-called Supreme Leader, Khameni, has a website on which you can read a long and detailed rationale for wiping out the State of Israel.
You may or may not know that Canada has cut off diplomatic relations with Iran and, in the Globe and Mail, a journalist wrote that “OK. So maybe they’re kidding. Maybe they are 99% rational.” But that other one percent is a bit worrisome, especially if they get nukes.
Honestly, we stand on a precipice. There are some things we must keep in mind. I used to train councilors and we used to go through the same drill. I taught them that the most important thing they must do is to ensure that the children under their care return home to their parents safe and sound. That, before anything else. Everything else is second to that. The most important thing as a nation is to make sure that your citizens stay safe. Nothing else comes close to that. And Israel right now can’t say that with confidence.
We are told as a people that we are obsessed with the Holocaust so I ask you what that it possibly mean to be too concerned a half century ago that the only reason all our people were not killed was because we won the world war. How can you think about that too much, especially when those enemies have not disappeared from the earth. This is what everyone should be talking about. There is nothing more important. For Israel it is about survival, but it is not just about survival. There are lots of reasons why people hate and everybody who gives simple answers you should distrust them but for Israel it is because it has succeeded, it is a fair democracy and it has fair and free elections. This is one reason that hate against it exists. This is why they can take such a ridiculous pretext as that stupid You Tube video and use it as a recruiting tool because the resentment is there. It is a flag they can wave and it bursts into flame.
And I ask you, as a people, what is our gift? I just read a book for review. It’s called “Jews and Words” by Amos Oz and his daughter. In this book it says that Jews survived because of two things – children and words. You didn’t have a synagogue, you didn’t have a community. That’s OK, as long as you had a word, a book. Our gift is that we are a vocal people. We make noise in this world. If you have not spoken about it you have a role to play. This is what Jews have to be talking about especially now. We have to use whatever influence we have, whatever voice we have, whatever channel we have.
You remember the Iran-Iraq war, don’t you, when Iran gave children a token to use when they get to heaven to be martyrs for their cause. This is the rationale of the people we are dealing with. Little children found dead with a little token in their hands. I am warning you and I hope you are listening to me, the world, and I mean the Western world, the civilized world, is getting accustomed to the idea that Iran will get a bomb. Last week in the NY Times, and I don’t care of you like or hate the NY Times, the most influential newspaper in the world, and the editor wrote a big editorial making out that we are too quick on Iran, that it couldn’t be contained like the Soviet Union could be contained.
On ‘Morning Joe’ I appeared with Joe Klein, a very good reporter, and he talked about the fact that we could contain an Iranian bomb because they’re not crazy. Yet Joe Klein, that same Joe who said they weren’t crazy, had endorsed a book by writing of “the lethal immorality at the heart of the Iranian regime.” Well you can’t have it both ways. If it is your home in the path of the bomb wouldn’t you say they were crazy?
Let’s say they really don’t decide to blow up the state they said they want to blow up, don’t you think that Hizbollah wouldn’t use the bomb. It only takes one scientist to pass on the material. What happens can never unhappen. Once Iran gets the bomb the world will never take them on. Don’t forget that it was Israel that took out the Iranian facility and they were condemned for it. From the perspective of Jewish history there is not a possibility that our enemy can be given a weapon of such potency and that any Jew can sleep well afterwards. Today is Rosh HaShana. Today the world was born. While we celebrate the birth of the world, there are those who are relentlessly and assiduously plotting to destroy the world. Do you remember the line that went through Robert Oppenheim’s mind as he witnessed the first atomic blast. “I am become death, destroyer of worlds.” We don’t have the luxury of a shameful obliviousness.
I am not a one issue voter and I am sure you are not also. But this year, this year, if there was a candidate that had a candidate who had a plausible plan for preventing Iran from getting their bomb that candidate would get my vote. This is what matters. This won’t get anyone a job, and won’t bring manufacturing back from China, but if someone knew how to do this it might prevent annihilation.
Abba Eban, the great Israeli diplomat, said that “there are things too terrible to imagine but nothing too terrible that it hasn’t happened.” This is too terrible to imagine but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. So I beg of you don’t forget it, don’t ignore it, and don’t keep quiet about it. This is different. It isn’t a small threat. This is everything, and even if it starts with Israel, as we know from history, it never ends there. The enemies of the Jews become the enemies of the world. That is the iron law of truth. Don’t think that this will go away. It is not only our task but it is surely our task. I leave you with two words – never again.