An Epitaph To Which We Can All Aspire

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On Sunday, Meir Dagan took leave of his post as head of the Mossad. His words to the Cabinet were poignant and touching; they deserve fuller exposure. They fill us not only with gratitude, but with concern. Where will the State find such devotion in a new generation in which altruism is hardly one of its received values, at least outside the observant community?

His final words remind us of the Yom Hadin, and challenge us to introspect as to whether we will be able to say the same.

I hereby finish over 43 years of service to the state. I have had the honor and the privilege of leading the Mossad for the past eight years. With your permission, instead of discussing myself, I would like to say a few words about those who serve in the Mossad.

They are an excellent and unique group of both women and men, who act with originality and daring, who are imbued with a sense of mission, and who work unselfishly night and day. Usually, they do not have backing and support as a group, nor do they have tank or air assistance, and, in most cases, there is no possibility of rescue. They operate with the sole protection of their sharp wits, their cover story and their courage. They cannot even tell their loved ones about what they are doing, and seclusion is their constant companion. What motivates them is the need to protect the Jewish People and the State of Israel.

I was appointed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. I worked under Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and I received from them, me and my people, their encouragement, support and backing. I would like, Mr. Prime Minister, to thank you for your support and backing, and I would like to wish you and to the Government of the State of Israel the wisdom to guide the country through stormy seas, and that you will bring Israel to the safe harbors of peace and security, and will see to the needs of its citizens. Work to strengthen the ties between the Jewish Diaspora and the State of Israel so that we may uphold the verse in Ezekiel (11:17) ‘I will even gather you from the peoples, and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the Land of Israel.’

I did the best I could. Thank you very much.

In his response, Prime Minister Netanyahu reflected upon a moment of clarity in Dagan’s office:

I cannot tell about all of your actions but I can tell ministers about a conversation we had in the Mossad offices, approximately one year ago. I sat in your office and I saw on the wall the picture of an elderly religious Jew, on his knees before Nazi thugs. This picture caught my eye and I asked you about it. You said that that was your grandfather. I asked you what happened to him. You told me: They murdered him. Then I said, Meir, I understand you; now I understand you. I understand your deep commitment to ensure that nobody could ever again be able to implement the threat of annihilating the Jewish People. This is both a personal and national order and you acted in accordance with it.

The Meshech Chochmah (Devarim 30:2) speaks of how the Torah can treat the return of Klal Yisrael to Hashem as a certainty, a given. “Ahavas Yisrael is etched into its heart. This causes it to listens to what is engraved there from Har Sinai; it thus remembers its original thoughts, and returns to Hashem its G-d.”

May everyone find that pure font of Ahavas Yisrael within, and use it to reconnect with their Creator.

Hat tip to Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for sending the two statements.

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3 Responses

  1. Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

    My response to this comment can be found in a separate post, entitled “No Monopolies on Altruism”

  2. Miriam says:

    There are tens of thousands of young Israeli boys and girls who give up of years of their lives in defense of their homeland serving every year in the IDF…

    I am curious (statistically) what moral impact this has on Israelis – dedicating several prime years to such a chessed.

  3. Nathaniel Helfgot says:

    (The following was private comment I wrote to R. Adlerstein who asked if I would share it with the public. NH)

    Dear Rabbi Adlerstein: I was very moved by your posting on Cross-Currents of Meir Dagan’s final words to the cabinet and PM Netanyahu’s comments in response. I did, however, feel a discordant note when you off handedly wrote: “Where will the State find such devotion in a new generation in which altruism is hardly one of its received values, at least outside the observant community?”.

    As my rebbi, Rav Lichtenstein, has often noted, we in the observant community have to be very careful about giving the impression that only “our community” is full of values and commitment, altruism, and sacrifice etc. There are tens of thousands of young Israeli boys and girls who give up of years of their lives in defense of their homeland serving every year in the IDF, including many hundreds who join elite units and are involved in other projects on behalf of the state, many out of a devotion and commitment that is on par with what one finds in the religious community. There are many young chiloni men and women involved in volunteer efforts in Israel,(volunteer clowns in children’s hospitals, tutoring kids who need school work, serving in youth groups, going on educational shlichuyot to all kinds of distant Jewsih communities through the Jewish Agency etc.) that are doing great things and should be encouraged and celebrated. I do not think that this kind of off-handed comment is good for our own spiritual growth nor for our interaction with the non-observant.
    Haleveai that mesirut nefesh, commitment, altruism were even more manifest in all communities and the materialism and individualism that has impacted us all (in varying degress) was less prevalent in current Israel and American Jewish society, but broad brush comments like this strike me as unhelpful.

    Kol tuv,
    bevirkat ha-Torah vehamitzvah,

    Nati Helfgot