While Shimon Peres, who passed away last night, did not share my political views in many issues over the years, he undoubtedly represented Israel around the world in a way that nobody else was able to. No matter what gripe a person might have with his decades long career, he was a brilliant and dedicated diplomat who played an integral role in building the State, land, security and economy of Israel since day one. Of the “founding fathers,” he was the last man standing.
One of my favorite memories with Shimon took place during a charity mission to Israel a few years ago. I, along with four friends, paid an impromptu visit to the President at Beit HaNassi (the official residence of the President of Israel) in Jerusalem.
In a conversation (mostly focused on Israel’s innovation and mind-blowing technologies) which lasted about an hour, the President asked us what we thought the greatest contribution of the Jews to the world was. His answer was very different than any of us had expected.
He suggested that the greatest gift of Jews to the world is “Dissatisfaction.” Like the famous joke goes, “What does the waiter at the Jewish deli ask? ‘Is anything alright?'” We’re never happy, we’re always complaining, nothing is ever good enough for us, and we’re always looking to make things better, smarter and more effective. We’re never satisfied and we’re always looking to make positive change.
In line with the President’s idea, I remarked that the spies that Moses sent into Israel came back and complained that the land of Israel is one “that devours its inhabitants.” The word used in the Torah for inhabitants is “yoshveha,” literally translated as “those who sit.” So yes, those who just plan to “sit” in the land and do nothing to contribute to society will in fact be devoured by the land. Those who actually do something to strengthen the economy, safety, and wellbeing of the Jewish homeland will have a very different experience.
Shimon Peres is one who had that positive experience and one who more than paid his dues. From before the State of Israel was even established until the age of 93, this man NEVER sat back. Ever. He never stopped fighting for our Jewish homeland and he never stopped fighting for the Jewish cause.
In the spirit of the Jewish New Year which we will celebrate next week, and in memory of Shimon, perhaps we can all be a bit more conscious of the time that we spend “sitting,” as opposed to doing whatever we can for the betterment of society. The more we spend our time fighting the good fight, defending Israel, and doing for others, the more Shimon’s legacy lives on.
Last night marks the end of an era.
May he rest in peace and may his memory be for a Blessing.