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Rabbi Rafi RankBy the CyberRav—Rabbi Rafi Rank

Shabbat Shalom, Everyone.  CyberRav here with a bit of Aural Torah for you!

Our Thanksgiving celebrations were disrupted this year with news of a brutal attack in India, perpetrated by Islamic terrorists who were targeting British and American citizens, and Jews in particular.  The attack in Mumbai has so far left 119 dead and over 300 wounded.  The terrorists commandeered a Chabad House, holding the few who were there as hostages for several hours. 

The attack, coinciding with Thanksgiving, should give us pause over what it is we are actually grateful for and how best to give thanks.  As militant Islam continues to seek targets representative of democracy and freedom, we should understand that in their minds, the real culprits are, in fact, democracy and freedom.  It’s a difficult concept to grasp.  As Americans so taken by the blessings of freedom, we cannot fathom how anyone could seriously be opposed to it.  But for people accustomed to religious authoritarianism, freedom is the ultimate threat.  Freedom undercuts the authority of religious leaders, frees people from ancient traditions, and allows for a creativity in philosophy and fashion, in behavior and social norms that could completely overturn religious life.

As Jews, we hold sacred many ancient traditions, but we do so within a context of a world that will never force us to submit to those traditions.  We may freely choose to follow or reject them, which makes the jobs of rabbis, priests and ministers challenging as they seek to draw people into religious tradition, but the contemporary clergy would have it no other way.  A religion that coerces people is simply not a religion inspired by God. 

We can be grateful that we live in a country that allows us to worship God as we so please.  We can be grateful for our manifold blessings and above all for the freedoms we enjoy.  We must also remember that these freedoms were not handed to us willingly, but fought for and secured after much bloodshed and loss of life.  Democracies ultimately shun war for who wants to risk their lives in war?  Sadly, the task of protecting our freedoms will not be secured through pacifism.  Mumbai reminds us that there is a war going on.  It is increasingly a world war and it appears to be a war that will last a long time.  But if it is a war bent on obliterating the freedoms we cherish, then it will be a war worth fighting.

Some say that the problem is Islam.  Certainly the terrorists are predominantly Moslem.  But I think a more accurate assessment is that the problem is an Islam that is yet to undergo a reformation as has Judaism and Christianity.  Until Islam undergoes the painful adjustments that reformation demands, it will inspire unscrupulous men to engage in unspeakable acts.  The world must take note and act accordingly.  There can be no thanksgiving expressed more eloquently than taking the bold and courageous steps necessary to protect the freedoms we cherish from those who would choose to destroy them.

This is Rafi Rank, the CyberRav, wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and encouraging you to spread a little aural Torah around your Cyber community!

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