Journeying Toward Peace


Thinking about the Iran Agreement with Torah 

From the beginning of nuclear negotiations between European nations, the U.S., and Iran, there has been much debate both here and in Israel about whether an agreement – or even entering into negotiations – was worthwhile.  Now that an agreement has been announced, that debate has intensified.  During the next two months, Congress will appropriately consider the language of the agreement and its costs and benefits for the security of this country, Israel, and the world.  As we listen to and participate in this debate in the run-up to the High Holidays, we should keep in mind the obligation that Jewish tradition places on us with regard to war and peace:  “When approaching a city to wage war on it, first offer it peace” (Deuteronomy 20:10).  Even in a situation in which we are prepared to go to war, we must try our best to avoid it through attempting to negotiate with our enemies.  Jewish texts acknowledge that this may be difficult to do.  We have to face the uncertainty and risk inherent in negotiating with a hostile power.  And we have to face our own very real fears of destruction, fears that are heightened for us as we prepare for Tish’a B’Av, recalling the many moments of destruction that the Jewish people have endured throughout the centuries.  Because it is so difficult, we are taught:  “Seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14).  We must not be content to simply accept peace if and when it comes to us.  We are required to go out into a sometimes hostile world and chase after it.  We must do the hard work of sitting down with our enemies, working with our friends, and pursuing every possible path that has a chance of avoiding war and bringing peace on us, on Israel, and on the world.