Peace Depends on Israel’s Return to its Land and Kingdom

“Fortunate are you, O Israel: who is like you! O people delivered by HaShem, the Shield of your help, Who is the Sword of your grandeur. Your foes will try to deceive you, but you will trample their haughty ones.” (DEVARIM 33:29)

These were Moshe’s last words to Israel. After warning and chastising the Hebrew tribes at length, the prophet now expresses his true feelings for his people. His final message is one of optimism, love, praise and encouragement. As history can attest to the many hardships Moshe warned of, we can be certain that these words of reassurance will reach fruition.

Perhaps no man in history has surpassed Moshe in his unyielding love for the Children of Israel. The patience he exhibited in the face of our shortcomings through all of the decades together in the wilderness is a testament to his stature as our greatest national leader. It is precisely this patience for the whole of the Hebrew Nation that we must all strive to emulate – to learn from Moshe that all of Am Yisrael is holy and deserving of our love.

Genuinely experiencing this love for every Jew becomes considerably easier once a person attains a heightened awareness of Israel’s true inner essence. The Hebrew Nation is not the sum total of every individual Jew but rather one colossal spirit that manifests itself in this world through millions of bodies in space and time. While human beings each possess a personal soul, Israel shares one massive national soul – like a giant tree of which each Jew is an individual branch.

Rabbi Avraham Yitzḥak HaKohen Kook teaches that the highest attainable level of Ahavat Yisrael (love for Israel) results from obtaining the belief, knowledge and deep understanding of Israel’s true inner essence. It involves far more than merely loving individual Jews because they may be smarter, stronger or more pleasant than some gentiles. This is obviously not always true and is certainly not what makes Israel unique. The Segula of Israel is the collective national essence that precedes the individuals. It is the inner Divine light planted within the Israeli soul and revealed in human history through the Jewish people. Rather than attempt to love each and every individual Jew, one can learn to recognize and love the source of Israel’s essence – theSegula – which then allows this love to flow out to every distinct piece of that national collective.

A man who loves his son does not simply love the sum total of each limb. He loves his child as a single person and therefore loves every individual piece of that person. He can see each finger, leg and ear as a unique expression of the single entity he knows to be his son. Similarly, Knesset Yisrael is one giant spiritual organism revealed through individual Jews scattered in space and time. And the attainment of true Ahavat Yisraelnecessitates a conscious awareness and appreciation of Israel’s collective spiritual essence.

Break the BDS

Moshe’s greatest legacy was his being the man elected by the Kadosh Barukh Hu to lead Israel out of slavery in order that we receive His Torah, establish His Kingdom and bring all of Creation to perceive His Divine Oneness. Israel now completes the yearly cycle of reading the Torah and celebrates the event with great national festivities.

On Simḥat Torah, every Hebrew male is offered the chance to be called up for analiyah to the Torah and recite the blessing “asher baḥar banu mikol ha’amim v’natan lanu et Torato” – “Who chose us from among the peoples and gave us His Torah.” This is what Israel celebrates, filled with joyful exhilaration from the incredible reality that HaShem – with an extraordinary love – fashioned us unique among the peoples of this world in order to make us worthy of manifesting His Ideal. Israel celebrates the fact that we are the nation specifically created to bring HaShem’s light to mankind and to elevate existence to a level where every creature will acknowledge its Divine Source and fully actualize its unique potential in this life. Only by internalizing our Divine election and mission as the national expression of HaShem’s Ideal for this world can we hope to appreciate the Torah’s full splendor.

There are people – even great scholars – who mistakenly regard our Torah as merely a guide for performing dry rituals, devoid of any metaphysical world-altering significance. Some view the Torah and the practice of its “religion” as mere prayer, holidays, dietary laws and study, without recognizing the Divine Ideal shining through each of these details. This fundamental misunderstanding stems from a fragmented view of Torah that cannot succeed at recognizing Israel’s national purpose and true revolutionary function in this world. And it is precisely this error that prevents many of our people from rising up to the challenges confronting Israel today.

The foundation of Israel’s Torah is not merely some holidays and disjointed ritual precepts but rather the Divine Ideal from before existence placed into this reality for the sake of elevating our world beyond its current limitations. The Israeli Nation – through a sovereign kingdom in the borders stipulated by HaShem – is the vehicle meant to free mankind from the spiritual shackles of the world’s current state in order to usher in a new era of universal fulfillment. Because the Hebrew mission can only be achieved through a holy nation – as Am Yisrael and not as a collection of individual Jews, Israel must unite on our native soil and establish a kingdom that will reveal the inherent kedusha in all material aspects of national life and realize the lofty goals for which we received the Torah in the first place.

An accurate and holistic understanding of our Torah first necessitates a deep appreciation for Israel’s historic mission in this world. Mankind’s ability to reach the goal of Creation is uniquely built into Knesset Yisrael. Through the Jewish people reclaiming sovereignty over our homeland, we bring the entire world closer to history’s ultimate purpose.

Universal peace and human perfection can only be achieved when Am Yisrael is independently situated in Eretz Yisrael with HaShem’s Temple crowning the city of Jerusalem. Only from Zion can the Torah be fully illuminated – infusing the totality of personal, national and international life with kedusha – and properly transmitted to the whole of mankind.

This conscious awareness deepens our enjoyment during these festive days by permitting us to focus on our deepest national aspirations. Simḥat Torah exhibits how the highest ecstasy we can possibly experience is defined by our service to HaShem as expressed by His Torah. After emerging from the Days of Awe purified and dwelling in the Sukkah (demonstrating a pure reconnection with nature and trust that the greatest protection of all comes from the Kadosh Barukh Hu), Israel is now strengthened to embark on yet another year aspiring to fully express our inner Segula and advance our collective mission of perfecting this world. When Sukkot comes to an end, Israel immediately moves to channel our love for HaShem into a celebration of Torah and loyalty to the Hebrew mission – to establish His Kingdom in the whole of our land and to shine His Divine blessing to all of humanity.


“Moshe went and spoke these words to all of Israel…”

“Moshe went and spoke these words to all of Israel. He said to them, ‘I am a hundred and twenty years old today; I can no longer go out and come in, for HaShem has said to me ‘You shall not cross the Jordan’. HaShem, your G-D – He will cross before you, and you shall possess them; Yehoshua – he shall cross over before you, as HaShem has spoken.’” (DEVARIM 31:1-3)

Moshe – who taught, guided and nurtured the Children of Israel for forty years in the wilderness – was not to be permitted into the Promised Land. The prophet who had received the Torah on Israel’s behalf would be forced to take leave of his people just before the liberation of Eretz Yisrael and the establishment of HaShem’s Divine Kingdom therein.

The most well known explanation for why Moshe was forbidden from crossing the Jordan is that he had once lost his patience with Israel and struck a rock. The Midrash, however, explains that this incident was only when the sentence took effect. It had been decreed decades earlier that Moshe would be prohibited from crossing the Jordan River.

“G-D said to Moshe, ‘Whoever acknowledges his homeland is buried in his homeland. Yosef acknowledged his homeland, as it is written, ‘for indeed I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews…’ (BEREISHIT 40:15). You did not acknowledge yourhomeland… How? The daughters of Yitro said, ‘An Egyptian man saved us from the shepherds’ (SHEMOT 2:19). You heard them and remained silent. Therefore you will not be buried in your homeland.’” (Devarim Rabbah 2:8)

Break the BDS

Although he had been raised as royalty in Pharaoh’s palace and had never in his life actually seen the Land of Israel, Moshe was held accountable for allowing himself to be referred to by others as “an Egyptian man.” Regardless of where we each currently reside, Jews should be vigilant never to view ourselves as belonging to any people or nation other than our own. Moshe, the paradigm of Hebrew unity and national responsibility – who killed an Egyptian on the spot for merely striking a Hebrew slave – was penalized for neglecting to protest when being referred to as an Egyptian. This episode illustrates the gravity of viewing ourselves as German, French, American or any nationality other than Israeli. We must understand thatIsrael is one people with one country and one collective mission reflecting the Torah’s blueprint for an ideal perfect world. And it is only through the advancement of Israel’s national aspirations that humanity can attain higher consciousness and total blessing according to HaShem’s Divine plan for Creation.


The Torah is the Blueprint for Israel’s Mission

“If a bird’s nest happens to be before you on the road, on any tree or on the ground – young birds or eggs – and the mother is roosting on the young birds or the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young. You shall surely send away the mother and take the young for yourself, so that it will be good for you and you will prolong your days.” (DEVARIM 22:6-7)

It is learned from the statement “you will prolong your days” that a long life is acquired through adherence to this particular commandment. In his Guide to the Perplexed (3:48), the Rambam emphasizes the inherent cruelty of slaughtering a mother together with her young. Animals instinctively love their offspring and would obviously suffer pain if forced to witness the abduction of their children.

Our Sages make reference to the above directive, stating, “If one says, ‘Your mercy rests upon the bird’s nest’… we silence him.” The Talmud comments, “It is because he attributes G-D’s conduct to mercy when it consists only of decrees.” (Brakhot 33b)

It is peculiar that our Sages instruct us to silence a person for praising the Kadosh Barukh Hu. While the commandment to send away the mother bird obviously demonstrates HaShem’s compassion, the Talmud is teaching a valuable lesson. One who fulfills the commandments because he finds them agreeable transforms the Torah’s decrees into something dependent on man’s approval. If a Jew fulfills a decree because he intellectually agrees with it, there exists a danger he might reject a mitzvah he finds difficult to understand. If he becomes accustomed to performing mitzvot only because he views them as morally acceptable according to his limited human perspective, he could potentially reject other Divine commandments that conflict with his personal sense of morality.

While mitzvot like mercy to animals may be agreeable to most Jews living in contemporary Western societies, many such people are challenged by decrees that conflict with the values of the countries they live in. The Torah’s wisdom and moral compass soar far beyond the intellectual capacities of man and making adherence to halakha dependent on human approval undermines the entire basis for Israel’s existence.

Israel’s Torah is not a man-made “religion” but rather the Divine Ideal implanted into our world for the purpose of uplifting it beyond its current limitations. The Torah is the blueprint and instruction manual for how Israel – as a “kingdom of priests and holy nation” (SHEMOT 19:6) – must elevate mankind and bring HaShem’s blessing to flow through every sphere of existence.

Every mitzvah is like a faucet that when opened, sends Divine content into our world and raises it to levels beyond where it previously existed. These faucets, however, must be connected to the correct plumbing in order that they achieve their anticipated function.

Each mitzvah must be performed at its proper time, place and appropriate situation. A person who performs the act of waving a lulav on Ḥanukah, for example, does not bring any special blessing into the world. A lulav must be waved during the Sukkot festival and doing so on Ḥanukah is similar to turning on a faucet with no pipe behind it. Nothing comes out. The physical act was completed, but not according to the Torah’s instruction.

The same holds true for a Jew who observes mitzvot outside the Land of Israel. While he is performing actions commanded of him by HaShem, he is not enhancing Creation on any spiritual plane. There are no pipes behind his actions because the mitzvot are meant to be fulfilled in a specific geographic location. This is why some of history’s greatest Torah luminaries describe mitzvot outside the Land of Israel as mere practice (Ramban on VAYIKRA18:25 and Rashi citing Sifre on DEVARIM 11:18 – to guarantee that Israel not forget the commandments while temporarily exiled from our homeland). The full manifestation of HaShem’s Ideal as expressed through the mitzvot is only realized when performed in Eretz Yisrael, as nearly the entire Book of DEVARIM instructs.

The Torah is not subordinate to human intellect nor is its worth contingent on resemblance to foreign values. The mitzvot are the earthly vehicles through which the Divine Ideal is channeled into this world. Israel must carry out the Torah’s directives in order to fully manifest and express the Ideal that will bring all humanity to unparalleled heights. As the nation uniquely fashioned to bless mankind with the knowledge of HaShem as the infinite Whole of which we are all apart, Israel must establish a Hebrew Kingdom in our homeland that will reveal all spheres of life as being unique expressions of G-D’s all encompassing Oneness.Malkhut Yisrael is the necessary prerequisite to Israel fulfilling our historic mission of bringing all of Creation to the awareness of HaShem as the timeless ultimate Reality without end that creates all, sustains all, empowers all and loves all.

The King is the Heart of the Nation

SHOFTIM deals primarily with statutes pertaining to Israel’s leadership. Because leadership is not a position of honor for the individual but rather a burden of responsibility for the welfare of the Jewish people, the Torah sets down specific guidelines in order to steer our leaders towards attaining their full potential.

“It shall be that when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself two copies of this Torah in a book, from before the Kohanim, the Levi’im. It shall be with him, and he shall read from it all the days of his life, so that he will learn to fear HaShem, his G-D, to observe all the words of this Torah and these decrees, to perform them, so that his heart not become haughty over his brethren and not turn from the commandment right or left, so that he will prolong years over his kingdom, he and his sons amid Israel.” (DEVARIM 17:18-20)

A melekh (generally translated into English as “king”) is commanded to write and read his own Torah in order to prevent his position of leadership from creating within him a feeling of arrogance toward his brothers. By delving into the deeper secrets of Torah, a melekh can gain a higher awareness that although we may each play unique roles in Israel’s national life, we are all in fact parts of a greater whole and no man can truly reign supreme over others. Even learning the Torah on a surface level enables a leader to understand the past failures of his people in order that he personally strive to correct these shortcomings and lead the Jewish people in fulfilling our collective destiny.

The ideal Torah concept of melekh differs greatly from the monarchs who rule over other peoples. A melekh is the concentrated expression of the collective Israeli soul – Knesset Yisrael – that manifests itself in our world through millions of bodies revealed in space and time as individual Jews. The melekh does not actually rule over Israel but rather embodies the mission and aspirations of his nation to the extent that he becomes a microcosm of the entire Jewish people and his personal identity is absorbed into Israel’s collective national identity.

As is clearly exhibited in the behavior of David, a true melekh leads Israel not by behaving with arrogance but by displaying greater passion and fervor in serving HaShem.

“David danced with all [his] strength before HaShem; David was girded in a linen tunic. David and the entire House of Israel brought up the Ark of HaShem with loud, joyous sound, and the sound of the shofar.” (SHMUEL II 6:14-15)

David remains the paradigm of the ideal melekh, setting the ultimate standard for all future Jewish leadership.

“His [the melekh’s] heart is the heart of the entire congregation of Israel.” (Hilkhot Melakhim3:6)

Like the heart, which is one of the smallest organs of a body yet provides for that body’s entire life force, a melekh generates and directs the character and vitality of the entire Hebrew Nation. In this vein, the Midrash states that “The leader of the generation [represents] the entire generation.” (Bamidbar Rabbah 19:28)

To assist our leaders in properly fulfilling their roles, the Torah offers statutes to promote an attitude of responsibility, such as the commandment for a melekh to write for himself two copies of the Torah, as well as the following verses found at the end of SHOFTIM.

“If a corpse will be found on the land that HaShem, your G-D, gives you to possess it, fallen in the field, it was not known who smote him, your elders and judges shall go out and measure toward the cities that are around the corpse. It shall be that the city nearest the corpse, the elders of that city shall take a heifer, with which no work has been done, which has not pulled with a yoke. The elders of that city shall bring the heifer down to a harsh valley, which cannot be worked and cannot be sown, and they shall axe the back of its neck in the valley. The Kohanim, the offspring of Levi, shall approach, for them has HaShem, your G-D, chosen to minister to Him and to bless with the Name of HaShem, and according to their word shall be every grievance and every plague. All the elders of the city, who are closest to the corpse, shall wash their hands over the heifer that was axed in the valley. They shall speak up and say, ‘our hands have not spilled this blood, and our eyes did not see. Atone for Your nation Israel that You have redeemed O HaShem: Do not place innocent blood in the midst of Your nation Israel!’ Then the blood shall be atoned for them. But you shall remove the innocent blood from your midst when you do what is upright in the eyes of HaShem.” (DEVARIM 21:1-9)

While it may be difficult to imagine why anyone would suspect a pious city elder of responsibility for a mysterious local murder, Rashi explains that the elders must publicly absolve themselves from guilt in order to clarify that they were not negligent in providing the necessary security that would have prevented the spilling of blood. Sforno adds that such defensive measures include ensuring that no known murderer is permitted to roam the area. A Jewish leader must never be negligent when dealing with the welfare or security of his people.

A great lesson is taught here – a lesson in responsibility, Ahavat Yisrael (love of Israel) and the duty that a leader bears for the defense of his people. It is clearly not enough for a person to refrain from murder. He must also do everything in his power to prevent blood from being shed by others. And in order to save innocent people from danger, it is often necessary to neutralize whatever security threats might exist. The Torah teaches this to be a major responsibility of both local and national leadership.

The Maharal of Prague offers a profound insight on this point. He teaches that these verses imply that the murder could have been avoided had the victim been escorted by someone from the city. While there is no legal requirement to accompany a traveler all the way to his destination, the Maharal explains that when a host takes the trouble to escort a stranger on his journey, he demonstrates solidarity with a fellow Jew and with the entire Hebrew Nation. This is achieved by the mere performance of going out of one’s way for another even if not specifically mandated. When one demonstrates such Ahavat Yisrael, HaShem provides extra protection and the possibility of a tragedy occurring is diminished.

True love breeds responsibility. A Jew cannot exist independent of his people and Hebrew leadership demands the attributes of compassion and responsibility in order to succeed in guiding and protecting the Nation of Israel. Our Sages teach that Jerusalem’s second Temple was destroyed as a result of baseless hatred between Jews. The third Temple will arise as a result of a limitless love – a love that will breed courage, humility and responsibility, ultimately shining its light to the entire world and engulfing humanity in the Divine blessing of HaShem.

Balak’s Message for Israel’s Redemption Today

After learning of Moshe’s stunning victory against the Amorites, King Balak of Moav forged an alliance with Midian in order to wage war together against the Children of Israel. Once realizing the extent of Israel’s strength, however, Moav and Midian enlisted the infamous Bilaam to attack the Hebrew tribes through spiritual means.

Rabbi Shmuel Bornsztain – the second Admor of the Sokhatshov Ḥasidic dynasty – teaches in his Shem MiShmuel that Balak did not necessarily seek Israel’s destruction but was determined “to strike it and drive it away from the land” (BAMIDBAR 22:6). Pointing out that Israel posed no direct threat to either Moav or Midian, as neither people’s territory was en route to the Promised Land, the Shem MiShmuel quotes our Sages as teaching that Balak’s primary goal was to prevent the Hebrew tribes from entering the Land of Israel (Tanḥuma Balak 4, Bamidbar Rabbah 20:7).

The Shem MiShmuel further quotes the explanation of the Ḥidushei HaRim – the first Ger Admor Rabbi Yitzḥak Meir Alter – on the verse “the heavens are HaShem’s but the earth He gave to mankind” (TEHILLIM 115:16), where he teaches that man is tasked with creating heaven from earth by giving concrete physical expressions to the Divine Ideal. This is accomplished through the performance of themitzvot that uplift all aspects of the material world to their highest functions in existence. According to the Ḥidushei HaRim, this verse reveals the entire purpose of Creation.

Israel is charged with establishing a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (SHEMOT 19:6) that will elevate every sphere of national life and reveal the kedusha inherent in our physical world. The Shem MiShmuel explains that Israel’s task is not to live monastic spiritual lives in the desert but to express the Divine Ideal in all areas of human endeavor. This goal necessitates the establishment of a Hebrew Kingdom in Eretz Yisrael that will serve as a light unto nations and reveal HaShem’s Oneness to all humankind.

According to the Shem MiShmuel, Balak and Bilaam desperately sought to avoid such a kingdom for fear Israel’s example would force them to apply a Divine moral standard to governance, commerce and other features of the material world, ultimately stripping them of the benefits they enjoyed from the corruption permeating the political realm. Having no objection to Hebrews living lives of individual piety disconnected from national life, Moav and Midian feared the establishment of a Hebrew Kingdom because they intuitively understood that if Am Yisrael were to achieve political sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael, we would eliminate the illusory separation of “religion” and “state” and influence humankind to ultimately adopt policies that reflect a higher moral standard. Through Bilaam’s ability to curse, they hoped to keep Israel forever stranded in the desert where we could live ascetic spiritual lives disconnected from national issues. But while our enemies championed a separation of kedushaand statecraft, Israel’s historic mission demands that we materialize our spiritual ideals on a national level so that the Torah’s deepest values attain full expression in this world.

Once Bilaam is recruited for the war effort against Israel, the Torah recounts a bizarre situation in which the very laws of nature were temporarily altered. Although nevua as it is generally understood is an exclusively Hebrew trait, the gentile Bilaam possessed some level of prophecy and even attempted to use this gift to assist Israel’s enemies. When HaShem obstructed Bilaam’s path and he in turn began to beat his donkey, another abnormal occurrence took place.

“HaShem opened the mouth of the she-donkey and it said to Bilaam, ‘What have I done to you that you struck me these three times?’” (BAMIDBAR 22:28)

Bilaam’s donkey actually spoke as if she were human, complaining to her master for his abusive treatment and humiliating him before the elders of Moav. Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi teaches in The Kuzari that there are five levels of Creation (inanimate objects, plant life, animals, human beings, Israel). One attribute that separates between the third and fourth levels – between animals and humans – is the power of speech. And the major trait differentiating Israel from human beings is the potential to attain nevua (or at least prophecy that can transcend one’s own national experience). Bilaam’s donkey was able to speak only for the sake of clarifying the significance of Bilaam’s prophecy. Just as HaShem bent the laws of nature in order that a donkey could possess the ability to speak, so too was He bending the laws of nature in order that a gentile could possess the ability to prophesy regarding Israel. And rather than allow him to utter a curse against the Hebrews as Balak had instructed, HaShem forced Bilaam to bless His treasured nation.

The Maharal of Prague teaches in Netzaḥ Yisrael that the greatness of Bilaam’s blessing exceeded even those of Yaakov and Moshe, possessing no rebuke or distraction from pure brakha (Yalkut Shimoni Balak 25). Bilaam represented the extreme opposite of Israel’s spiritual power and the intensity of his desire to curse the Hebrew tribes made him the ideal candidate to serve as the conduit for HaShem’s abundant blessing, illustrating the Kadosh Barukh Hu’s mastery over even those forces that appear to stand in the way of Israel’s national mission. But to fully grasp why HaShem would suspend the world’s natural order by granting Bilaam such a uniquely Hebrew trait, we must examine a piece of his final message and understand what Divine benefit could be extracted from the anomaly.

“I shall see him, but not now, I shall look at him, but it is not near. A star has issued from Yaakov and a tribe has risen from Israel, and he shall pierce the nobles of Moav and undermine the children of Shet. Edom shall be a conquest and Seir shall be the conquest of his enemies – and Israel will attain success. One from Yaakov shall rule and destroy the remnant of the city.’” (BAMIDBAR 24:17-19)

The holy Ohr HaḤaim explains these verses to mean that if the redemption occurs due to Israel’s merit, it will come as a supernatural event with the messianic redeemer being revealed through great wonders. But if the redemption comes in its time – without the Hebrew Nation necessarily deserving it – there will rise up a group of Jews who come together and – through human endeavor – will assist HaShem (so to speak) in bringing the redemption through natural means.

The redemption can occur in one of two ways. The first option, known as aḥishena (hastened), is a miraculous and supernatural event in which the Nation of Israel is righteous and deserving. The second possibility, where Israel is unworthy, is generally referred to as bi’eta(in its time). This second option exists because as the predetermined goal of all human history, the redemption of Israel must ultimately come about and therefore has a set time if we do not merit it sooner. The Ohr HaḤaim understands from Bilaam’s prophecy that the redemption will most likely unfold through an organization of activists uniting to bring the Jewish people back to the Land of Israel through practical human means.

This understanding – which sheds light on much of what has been taking place in modern times – is well worth HaShem temporarily altering the laws of nature and allowing a gentile to attain a uniquely Hebrew form of prophecy. Israel must internalize this crucial message in order to not only gain a heightened perspective of current events but also to fulfill our national objective of establishing the Hebrew Kingdom that will ultimately reveal the kedusha inherent in all of Creation and bring humanity to recognize HaShem as the Divine Author of the story in which we are all participants.

Israel Is to Be An Example of Justice and Perfection to Mankind

[This week’s Torah portion is the Parsha of Behar]

While the Torah instructs Israel to aspire towards a “kingdom of priests and holy nation” (SHEMOT 19:6) in the Land of Israel, a just social order and healthy economy are two crucial ingredients to fulfilling this charge. Since modern Zionism’s early years, there has existed a conflict between self-proclaimed adherents of socialism and their opponents who favor a free market economy. For decades following the reestablishment of Jewish independence, this battle has raged and formed deep divides. Although security threats, increased westernization and foreign pressure to shrink the country’s borders in recent decades have often caused class issues to fade into the political backdrop, Israel still lacks the socio-economic ideal necessary to serve as a paragon of justice and morality to other nations.

Israel is tasked with becoming a light unto nations. As the national expression of HaShem’s Ideal for this world, the Jewish people are meant to demonstrate to mankind how to live all facets of life in such a way that actualizes and fully expresses our inner kedusha (holiness). The State of Israel must set an example of excellence to the rest of the world in every sphere of nationhood, from commerce and agriculture to governance and social services. Israel must aspire to build a perfect society that functions according to G-D’s Truth in every detail of life. The formula is not man-made but rather a sacred reality that transcends the limited perception of human beings. Only through existing as such a holy nation in the whole of Eretz Yisrael can the Jewish people hope to bring humanity towards a future of genuine harmony and universal fulfillment.

In order for Israel to achieve this goal, it is necessary that we establish a just society reflecting the values of our Torah. The Children of Israel must determine and implement social policies that benefit the collective society as well as the individuals within. Because Israel is meant to serve as a national light to mankind, the Jewish state must become a model civilization in which people live lives of dignity and fulfillment while wholeheartedly sharing in the collective national burden.

If your brother becomes impoverished and his means falter in your proximity, you shall strengthen him – proselyte or resident – so that he can live with you.” (VAYIKRA 25:35)

Various modes of production and social structures may possess positive features from which man can benefit. But in order to arrive at a complete and perfect system, Israel cannot be limited to working within the framework of the choices offered by the outside world. Rather than adhere to rigid foreign concepts, Israel must set our agenda in accordance with Hebrew values and promote a new outlook in compliance with Torah culture – an all-encompassing approach that will succeed in expressing the highest values in seemingly clashing ideologies. A central goal of Israel’s redemption process is freeing mankind from the limitations of dualistic thinking. Israel must bring man beyond the artificial contradictions of ostensibly conflicting ideals towards a higher awareness of opposites actually enjoying a deep inner unity.

A clear example of this concept is found in the Hebrew understanding ofkedusha. While Western thinking has traditionally viewed holiness as the triumph of the spiritual over the physical, Israel’s more holistic approach recognizes kedusha as being the healthy unification of spirituality and physicality.

Dualistic thinking is only one of the many negative features of Western civilization – a civilization principally based upon the values of Esav, whose Edomite descendants ultimately became the Roman Empire, morphed into the Christian Church and dominated Europe. Essentially utilized as a means of social control, the poisoned doctrine of Christianity spread far and wide while spiritually oppressing a significant share of humankind. As Europeans began to conquer and pillage the new world, the culture of Edom took on a secular form still rooted in the barbarism of its forerunners as Europe’s feudalist social structure gave way to the rise of capitalism. Capitalism as a mode of production is essentially based on the competition between rival capitalists to attain profits. To beat out their contenders and constantly feed this ever-expanding system, leading capitalists enlist the aid of their governments in finding markets in other countries, gaining access to natural resources and exploiting cheap labor, essentially spawning the same imperialism that characterized ancient Rome. Within the capitalist mode of production itself exists a drive compelling nations to dominate and oppress weaker peoples.

Capitalism gave rise to a powerful culture that indoctrinates the masses to constantly consume, subliminally promoting the goal of life as the acquisition of wealth. The motivational forces driving Western man to be productive became the pursuits to accumulate the most money, bed the most attractive women, drive the fastest cars and live in the largest homes. While the Torah certainly requires men to be physically attracted to their wives and successful in providing for their families, these do not serve as the actual foundations of a Hebrew society. Unlike Western civilization, which places the materiel success of the individual at the center, Hebrew civilization is primarily concerned with the moral and spiritual wellbeing of the collective.

The future to which Israel is bringing the world is one in which the motivational force driving man becomes an idealistic desire to perfect the entire world. To become partners in Creation that experience HaShem flowing through us as we actively bring history to its ultimate goal. For Israel to lead the world to this stage first requires a conscious rejection of Edomite values in favor of a society based on giving and caring for the other, in which production is determined by actual human need. We must realize that the capitalist system only seems natural to us when we perceive ourselves as separate from – and at odds with – one another. The more we recognize mankind’s true inner unity, the more we appreciate our intrinsic subconscious drive to succeed collectively as one.

The Torah forbids us from allowing the impoverishment of other people as we are commanded to provide assistance to our brothers in need. Helping the poor is not merely a recommendation but actually a directive from HaShem and Divine expression of justice, no different than safeguarding the Sabbath or liberating Eretz Yisrael from foreign rule. Israel’s historic mission necessitates bringing all of humanity to the conscious awareness that Creation, with all of its multiplicity and variety, is actually one single entity – an organic whole of which we are all unique and crucial parts.

The ultimate goal towards which history is advancing necessitates the establishment of a social order founded on the morality and justice of our Torah where no person goes hungry and all live in friendship and mutual respect, setting an example of justice and perfection to mankind.

A State of Law? G-d Forbid

The expression, ‘a state of law and order’ has been bandied around a lot in Israel over the past few years.  Most recently, the mantra has taken on a renewed and intense fervor.  Yet, it’s fevered declaration not only undermines the actual rule of law, but has become to be an existential threat to the very nature and destiny of the Nation of Israel.

Israel is charged with being a nation of Justice and Righteousness, and while the rule of law plays an important role in establishing justice, it is not the only, nor even the central pillar.  There have been many states built around the value of law that were anything but righteous.  Many societies that placed the value of order above all else, were void of any semblance of justice.

In fact, elevating the value of law and order above all others precludes the creation of a just and righteous nation.  In such a society, law and order simply become a vehicle for demanding loyalty to a repressive state bureaucratic mechanism.  It creates a society of rules, not mores; demanding obedience through fear of punishment and retribution, not compliance through consent and approbation.

A society focused on ‘law and order’ creates an adversarial  dialectic between the state and its citizens, whereas when society’s emphasis is on the values of justice and righteous, a natural harmony between the nation and its leadership can flourish.  

In a Torah society, magistrates and and marshals (police) neither create nor are they above the law.  In fact, the opposite, they are held to a higher standard.  Even a king is subservient to the Torah.  

While the political elite in the State of Israel shout their mantra of  ‘law and order,’ a recent survey by the Midgam Institute, reveals that nearly three quarters of the population thinks that these same elites are buried up to their  elbows in corruption.  

The Torah demands that there be ‘shofitm’ (judges or magistrates) and ‘shotrim’ in every gate.       The two go hand in hand.  Not only does the Torah recognize that local leadership is key for the vitality of the nation, it suggests that enforcement without adjudication is a detriment to the health of the community.  Pushing for a police station in every town, without local courts and judges will eventually lead to a type of a police state, in function, if not in name.

We see this dichotomy through the Bible’s description of two very different models of government, that of King Saul’s and King David’s.  

While King Saul was a leadership was favorable and popular  at the beginning of his rule, when his kingship lost legitimacy (despite retaining the reigns and power), Saul became ruthless and oppressive, lashing out at anyone who he perceived (even without evidence) as a threat.  King Saul even ordered the slaughter of the kohenim-priests and the Tabernacle at Nov.  (The parallel with the current regime restricting Jewish access to the Mount should not be lost).

Yet, when King David ‘loses’ the kingdom, by losing the heart of the nation, he accepts the judgment, and despite retaining the tools of power (including a well fortified capitol), he doesn’t fight the people’s will, but recognizes the judgment leaves.  David’s stepping down from power, recognizing that he was no longer leading, allowed him to later return to lead the nation.   It is no small coincidence either that the Temple (the heart of the nation) plays a central role in David’s rule.  In fact, it is David’s purchase of the field on Mount Moriah, the building of an altar and the bringing of offerings that stops the plague caused by Saul’s destruction of Nov.   Justice and righteousness is the salve for strict authoritarianism.

According to the Torah model, the leaders are not only under the same law, they are actually held to a higher standard.

The Torah does not demand fealty to a bureaucratic state mechanism (this is not to suggest that conformance with societal rules and norms is not a value), but rather demands loyalty to G-d, His Torah, and His prophets.  Unlike some who have suggested otherwise, an observant Jew does not ‘believe in the state,’ but rather, it is the observant Jew’s duty to push the state into becoming a vehicle of G-d’s Will.  A state that expresses any other will is an anathema to the Torah ideal, and does not represent the Jewish Nation.