Today is May 23, 2022 / /

If I am not for myself who will be, and if I am only for myself what am I?

Should one country have an obligation to devote some portion of its resources and political energies to the wellbeing of another country, or, when it comes to a country, can it be 100% all-in on im ain ani li mi li?

This question came into stark relief last week when the Jewish President of Ukraine asked the Prime Minister of Israel to send air defense equipment to help Ukraine defend its citizens against the attacking Russian air force. This request of course put Israel between the proverbial Rock and a Hard Place.

In order to defend its own citizens, Israel requires freedom of movement in the skies above Syria, which skies are controlled by Russia. So Israel can’t afford to antagonize Russia too much without putting its own citizens at risk. But Israel of all countries, should understand the moral necessity of coming to the aid of a democratic Ukraine suffering a brutal and unprovoked attack from its much stronger Russian neighbor. 

So what’s a country like Israel to do when these two objectives identified by Hillel appear to be mutually exclusive, and no balance seems possible? This is a tough question. 

One of the things that I love about YCT’s philosophy of educating Rabbis, is that it doesn’t shy away from discussing the tough questions. If anything, YCT’s educators and students embrace, lechatchila, the importance of trying to work through the ethical challenges of our time. 

This is a great strength of YCT.

We all pray that the war in Ukraine comes to an end soon, so that the people of Ukraine can return to leading lives of peace, under the leadership of their courageous President.