Five years ago, Moshe Feiglin’s son, David was in a terrible car accident. The doctors didn’t think he would live, and then they didn’t think he’d emerge from a coma. When he came out of the coma after three months, they didn’t’ think he would ever speak or walk or live any semblance of a normal life. Last week, I had the privilege of attending David and Natalie’s wedding.
This wedding – on Tuesday night, Election night – revealed something deep and extraordinary about who Moshe Feiglin is and what he stands for.
The word for choice in Hebrew – Bechira – is the same word used for voting in an election. Election day was Yom Bechirot – which could also be translated as “the day of choices.” All of us in attendance at the wedding had the privilege in participating in an “election” night victory celebration, celebrating the most important choice we have. It was a celebration of choosing life.
And what a celebration!
Around the Chupah there was an incredible shower of emotional energy. No one was dry-eyed. When Yedudah Glick stood under the Chupah to deliver a bracha, it was a bracha that I’m sure reverberated to all corners of the universe.
But even more than it was David’s victory celebration, it was really Tzippy Feiglin’s (Moshe’s wife’s) victory celebration. She’s been battling Parkinson’s disease and lives with almost constant and sometimes unbearable pain and a body that no longer seems to work right. Every day, she faces a heroic battle to get out of bed, and day after day she chooses to live. Her dancing at her son’s wedding was an incredible celebration of that heroic choice.
Also, the story of David’s return to life is more than anything the story of a mother’s unbreakable faith. It was Tzippy who spent months by her son’s hospital bed 24/7, holding his hand and speaking to him with no response during the months when it looked hopeless, refusing to believe the doctors’ negative prognoses.
It was also Natalie’s victory, for choosing as her mate someone with significant physical and mental challenges. She’s obviously a very special woman.
Their victories are victories of an authentic Jewish Spirit, a spirit that is committed to life at all costs. And, in the month of Nisan, the month of our redemption, it’s particularly timely. One of things I’ve learned from my teacher, Rav Daniel Kohn, is that the roots of the redemption from Egypt are to be found in the unequivocal embrace of life by Moshe Rabeinu’s family.
One of the puzzles of the Exodus story is why Pharoah chose to have the baby Jewish boys killed and not the girls. We’re told that Pharoah was intimidated by the rapid growth in the Jewish population; but if that’s the case, then it would have been more effective to kill the baby girls. Why did he instead choose to kill the baby boys?
The answer, according to the Midrash, is that Pharoah had been warned by his astrologers of the impending birth of a redeemer from among the Jews. The redeemer is a man. He’s the politician. He’s the one who holds up the flag and says “follow me.”
What Pharoah didn’t understand is that the real source of redemption is not the politician waving the flag. The real source of redemption is the unequivocal embrace of life on the part of the women in the redeemer’s family.
It was Moshe Rabeinu’s mother, Yocheved and his sister Miriam whose unequivocal commitment to life led to his birth. There are a number of Midrashim on how Miriam and Yocheved re-united the Jewish men and women to keep the cycle of life going, despite the pain. On the surface, Moshe Rabeinu’s mission and his message in life was about freedom – Cherut – for the Jewish people. Underneath that however, Moshe Rabeinu represented an unequivocal embrace of life – not through what he said or did but through his family’s heroic stand, embracing life no matter what.
And it was Moshe Rabeinu’s stand as well. His last, summary directive to our people was “Chooose life.”
This stance on the absolute value of life is a core value of our people. It defines us and is one of the key reasons for our people’s survival through a history full of episodes as bad or worse than the Egyptian slavery. Moshe’s Rabeinu’s identity as the man who embodied the absolute value of life is part of what made him the fit leader for the people who embody that same stance.
So too, with Moshe Feiglin. His new party – Zehut – seeks to bring true Jewish freedom – Cherut – to our nation and to the world. But underneath that, and underneath his role as a political leader is a deeper message about the ultimate value of life.
That message of choosing life is not a political slogan or the plank of political platform. It’s who he is what he stands for by virtue of his most intimate family relationships.
In the coming months, we will be sharing our message and our vision for an authentically Jewish State of Israel, and everyone will have a chance to be part of this movement of choosing life. Stay tuned.