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One of the Major Questions of Our Lives

“And this is one of the major questions of our lives:

how we keep boundaries,

what permission we have to cross boundaries,

and how we do so.” – A. B. Yehoshua z”l

I have a copy of “The Lover” by A. B. Yeshoshua sitting by my desk, which I leafed through after hearing of the author’s passing this week.  Set during the Yom Kippur war, the writing seems less dream-like than dazed -and is taken to be a commentary on Zionism and the Israeli society of the time.

In reading more about A. B. Yehoshua, I found the above words, which are very appropriate both for this week’s Parasha, but also in the confused moment when the United Kingdom is debating boundary agreements and Israel is locked in a new debate about the borders of its coalition government.

The only clarity I can find is in the teachings of our Sedra, which I’ll discuss in a moment, and in the actions of a Commonwealth nation I am biased towards.

Along the world’s largest maritime border between Canada and the Denmark lies a small island, which until this week was claimed by both countries.  While it is an uninhabited rock in the traditional territories of the Inuit people, it became a source of a playful border skirmish, where Canadians troops started leaving whiskey, and the Danish military responded with Nordic alcoholic drink, akvavit.

Rather than let the bad feelings fester, now there is clarity. Hans Island will be split in two, with the border running along a natural break in the rock.

Of course, this was a low-stakes disagreement.  The maritime lanes, international boundaries, mining rights, and the movement of goods and people are not affected.  This is not the case with the more contentious of the issues above; the EU/UK border and customs disputes plus the renewed possibility of a Scottish referendum would change the lives of many.

What guidance can we find from this week’s Parasha? Our Torah reading this week includes the scouting incursion of the Jewish People into the Canaanite lands.  In our people’s story, exaggeration of the facts leads to tragedy and the death of a generation.

As we approach this major question of boundaries, and the body politic sets the direction of many lives – and I hope we all heed the lesson of our parasha, and approach them without inflation of the truth. Not all disputes are as easy to settle as the Whiskey War, and when disputes are difficult, it is clear from our reading that we must tackle the questions of boundaries without dreamy obfuscation, but with honesty and integrity.   And then, we I pray, our approach to these questions will bring about a more peaceful and secure world.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Jordan