Personal thoughts on current events, cultural events, Israel, Judaism, Jewish/Israel innovations and life from a Jewish perspective - read into that what you may.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Today’s Big Question

Today I have a Big Question that I want to deal with:

What are we doing in this world? Why and what purpose do we have?

Those are actually three big questions!

I will try to answer them as simply as I can according to my level of understanding. I'm not a Rabbi and not a philosopher, just a simple Jew trying to make sense of it all.

I believe the Jewish people are not "The chosen people" because we are better, more connected to G-d, or more spiritual people - rather because we were chosen by G-d to be responsible for spreading certain values to the rest of humankind. Having such a responsibility as a people and as individuals is no easy matter that we can not take lightly. But, what is important to emphasize is that being Jewish brings with it this responsibility, whether we like it or not.

This is no easy task and nothing to gloat about either - as a people or individuals.

In many ways we have succeeded pretty well - The idea of monotheism has become the norm.

However, that is not all that we are supposed to do.

We have much more work to do.

One example of just how much work we have before us is the whole focus nowadays on "rights" - everybody has rights - woman's right, children's rights, minority rights, prisoner's rights and even fetus rights (to get the list started). I have no problem with rights, but I do have a problem when rights are disconnected from responsibilities and consequences – that is where today's modern values are skewed and where the Jewish people actually can and must influence. Everyone talks about rights but nobody talks about responsibilities or consequences.

Since the key to our existence is recognition of our responsibilities to ourselves, each other and G-d we are in a unique position to spread this value to others. We understand that only those who uphold the responsibilities attributed to them deserve to receive their rights (i.e – our actions as a people and whether we deserve the “right” to live our lives as a people in Eretz Yisrael).

Without upholding ones responsibilities, the right to “rights” is very questionable indeed!

Sample A - A student has a right to be treated decently, but if the student's behavior is out of line, then he/she has been irresponsible and must pay the consequences - therefore allowing the teacher punish the student – a responsibility the teacher has in educating the student. (I bring this as a real life example from today’s world of rights).

Sample B – A couple has the right to have casual sex (in today’s world) but they also have a responsibility to live with the consequences of those actions without terminating the existence of the fetus if the woman gets pregnant due to their actions.

Sample C - The world pressure on Israel not to assasinate terrorists instead of the irresponsability of people to be terrorists or conduct terrorism in civilian areas.

Yes, there are examples in the above cases where living with the consequences is overlooked, but that is not because of special circumstances, not becausse of ones "rights". Society today is not educating the public with “the rule” and the “exceptions to the rule” – rather society is just focusing on poeple's rights without any focus on the responsibility and consequences!

However, our instructions as a people were very clear – in order for us to successfully perform our responsibilities – we, as a people must act appropriately and we must be living our lives as a nation in Eretz Yisrael.

This is what we are all about – not our careers, not our hobbies – but fulfilling our responsibilities of being “the chosen people ” in order to make this world a better place.

Now we can understand the greater picture of what is going on in Israel today:

There are two “ideological” camps in Israel today-

Camp #1: Believers that the Land of Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people where we are to develop a Jewish culture in the Jewish homeland

Camp #2: Believers that Israel should be a democratic country like any other – one, in which it just so happens, that many Jews live.

Every issue today in Israel is connected to the struggle between the two groups above........citizenship issues, Shabbat-as-a-day-of-rest or shopping issues, giving up parts of the Land of Israel issues etc.

Those that believe Israel is supposed to be a Jewish homeland are struggling to make it look and feel like a Jewish country – and that includes keeping the connection alive between the Land and our right to live in it.

Those that believe that Israel should be like any other country are doing everything in their power to break the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel (both literally – in uprooting Jews from their homes, and spiritually – in turning the culture into a secular democratic culture with little or no connection to our Jewish roots ---- ( Just take a little example - Have you ever noticed that more and more people and radio programs nowadays say “Sofe shavuah” instead of “Shabbat”? It might seem insignificant but it has great implications, especially over time.)

To make a difference, each one of us must understand this underlying struggle and be active in it. It is not enough for us Israelis to go to work everyday, return home, spend time with the family and go to sleep, and it is not enough to be good religious Jews in galut.

What is needed is for us to live up to our responsibilities – make sure we live in the Land of Israel and make part our lives the active pursuit of improving the Jewish culture here in the Land of Israel.

We have a responsibility and we will succeed - but first we must re-recognize what our responsability really is.

By the way, interestingly enough, this isn’t just my opinion (a religious, right winger etc etc) this analysis is also understood from in the left wing circles in Israel.

To read more on this topic from a different perspective (The Israeli left/Post-Zionist perspective) check out the article below that appeared in Haaretz on April 28th, 2004.


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