From The Other Side Of The Bench

By David J. Seidemann, Esq.

Our forefather Abraham “lifted his eyes and he saw three strangers standing over him. And when he saw them, he ran to greet them from the entrance of his tent, bowing down to the ground. He said, ‘My master . . . do not go on without stopping by your servant. Let some water be brought, and wash your feet. Rest under the tree and I will bring bread for you to refresh yourself.’ . . . And Abraham rushed to Sarah’s tent and said, ‘Hurry, three measures of the finest flour. Knead it and make rolls.’” (Bereishis 18). For that’s how a Jew treats three strangers standing on the side of the road.

“Abraham ran to the cattle and chose a tender choice calf; he gave it to a young man who rushed to prepare it. And Abraham fetched some cream and milk and the calf that he prepared and he placed it before his guests. He stood over them as they ate under the tree.” For that is how a Jew treats three strangers standing on the side of the road, three strangers who perhaps were on their way back from yeshiva to visit their families for Shabbos.

That’s how a Jew treats three young men or three young women, Jewish or not Jewish, who need a place for the weekend, pillows to rest their heads on, a warm meal to eat, or a ride from the side of the road.

It is in our blood, our DNA. The very day that an Arab newspaper posted a sick cartoon of three mice with yellow Jewish stars on their bodies, ensnared on a fishing line, Abbas’s wife was being operated on by Israeli doctors in an Israeli hospital. Yet we are labeled as racist, as an apartheid state, and as the worst violators of human rights by people and bodies that have no right to call themselves human.

And those three travelers enjoyed the hospitality of our patriarch Abraham, who desired nothing more than to provide safety and comfort to three people (or angels) whom he had never met.

He could have abducted them, killed them, held them for ransom, terrorized them and their families. But that’s not who Abraham was. That’s not who we are. As much as we hate when our people fall into harm’s way, we detest having to kill the enemy. Because that’s who we are.

And when we do, when we must sever the head of evil, it is to protect our own, and only to protect our own. We don’t throw parades afterwards. We don’t pass out candy or fire guns into the street. That’s not who we are. Oh what a contrast, oh what a contrast.

Do we believe in collective punishment? You bet we do. We are all, every Jew worldwide, collectively suffering as Yaakov Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal search their captors’ eyes for a semblance of humanity.

This is whom Fatah has partnered with, as if Fatah by itself were any more trustworthy. This is whom Secretary of State Kerry was admonishing us to embrace and cut a deal with, for if we didn’t make that deal, we, Israel would suffer, at least in the world of public opinion.

The EU? Silent for almost a week. The UN? The traditional warning that both sides should exercise restraint.

No more restraint. We are running out of sacrifices. It does not have to be this way. Israel can act preemptively to rid itself of neighbors that want to invite us into a tent only to blow it up once the three strangers are inside.

To be sure, Israel, with a superior army and intelligence second to none, has thwarted numerous attacks and kidnappings in the last year. But we have to be better and stronger and send a message of deterrence as we’ve never sent before. No more Mister Nice Guy, because we are running out of nice guys.

Exactly how much more can we suffer, can we be maligned by the nations of the world? We are the only nation in the world that has to apologize for defending its own people. No more apologies, because we are running out of people.

We are the only nation in the world that is not allowed to build to accommodate its population’s own natural growth. We are the only nation in the world that after capturing land–in defending ourselves in war started by our enemies–is being pressed and prodded, under threats of boycott, divestment, sanctions, and death, to surrender those lands to people whose sworn goal is to force us to surrender all of our land.

Imagine the comfort those three travelers felt in Abraham and Sarah’s tent. Imagine the fear our three boys–yes, our three boys–felt and feel in the tent of their captors.

We are the only nation in the region where the Jewish tent-dweller invites the Arab guest into his tent, into his government. And yet the only Jews that will ever be permitted on their land, if we can call it “their” land, will be those kidnapped and brought there against their will.

When Gilad Shalit was kidnapped, I had a few conversations with his father and I told him that my Shabbos table would mark Gilad’s captivity every week.

Unfortunately, we as a people find ourselves once again having to mark our Shabbos table till our three travelers return home. Starting this coming Shabbos, in addition to the two large challahs that adorn our Shabbos table, we will place three small challah rolls, one for each son and brother of ours who is in a stranger’s tent. And those challah rolls will remain there till Yaakov Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal return to Abraham’s tent. Because that’s who we are. v

David Seidemann is a partner with the law firm of Seidemann and Mermelstein and serves as a professor of business law at Touro College. He can be reached at 718-692-1013 or


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