I am proud to be here today to express the strong support of the Reform Jewish Movement for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
The Torah instructs us: "Seek peace, and pursue it." Our tradition teaches that there are no purposeless words in the Torah, that each and every word carries meaning. So why "seek peace and pursue it?" Is it not enough to seek peace, to actively search it out? Is it not enough to pursue peace, to proactively work for it?
The meaning of this powerful command has never been clearer to me than this morning - we are taught to seek peace and pursue it to ensure that our quest for peace leaves no stone unturned, and that we will give our all to the effort. Even if an uphill battle lies before us, we must not shrink from our responsibility - we must make every possible effort on behalf of peace.
For us, that responsibility leaves no doubt that the time for action on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is long overdue. Three years ago, President Clinton provided important leadership by signing his name to the CTBT, joining 149 other world leaders in their effort to reduce the threat of nuclear war. Today, we reaffirm our support for its ratification.
Jewish tradition, while believing that the use of force is moral when used for defense purposes, has long warned of the dangers of militarism and warfare. From the day that our prophets first dreamed of the time when nations would beat their swords into plowshares, we have sought to avoid armed conflict even while maintaining our security.
The Reform Jewish Movement has advocated a ban on nuclear testing since 1956, when the Central Conference of American Rabbis (now representing more than 1700 Reform rabbis worldwide) passed a resolution calling for the government to "continue its effort for an international agreement to govern or abolish the testing of nuclear weapons." More recently, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (now representing almost 900 congregations with a combined membership of over 1.5 million) passed a 1989 resolution urging the American government to "intensify its efforts toward achieving a comprehensive test ban." Since that time our Movement has repeatedly called for a comprehensive test ban treaty, believing that it is in America's best security interests to have a world free from nuclear weapons.
And now we are here, today. On the verge of an historic vote; on the verge of taking a crucial step toward alleviating the terrible role of nuclear weapons and all that comes with them from our world; on the verge of sending a powerful message to all people: that violence begets violence, that nuclear proliferation benefits no one, that we can, we will, and we must find other ways to protect ourselves, our nations, and our future. The cost of our failure would be to send a green light to the rest of the world that nuclear proliferation is the wave of the future, rather than a relic of the darker past. We cannot and must not send that dangerous signal.
And as we recommit ourselves to work toward a future in which testing - and, therefore, use - of nuclear weapons is less likely, I think of another interpretation of the injunction to seek peace and pursue it. Perhaps we are given the two commands to teach us that peace, lasting peace, is something which we need to hand down from generation to generation - that it is not sufficient to have peace in our time, that we must leave a peaceful world to our children. That is the promise of the treaty we are gathered here today to support, the promise of a safer, more peaceful world for us, for our children, and for our children's children.