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December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Chosen People’

On the Way to a Jewish State (part one)

Friday, May 16th, 2014

The phrase, “A Jewish state in the Land of Israel” plucks at the deepest heartstrings of every yearning Jew. For generations, since the destruction of the Temple and the exile to the diaspora, we have believed and hoped, prayed and dreamed about the ingathering of the exiles and our return to living in our Land standing tall, asking God to “break the yoke of the nations from over our necks and lead us to our land standing tall.” The ultimate goal of our yearning is the complete redemption, the arrival of Mashiach and the construction of the Temple. There is no doubt that a Jewish state is an essential and central component of the grand picture of the redemption of the Jewish People. Yet, it is clear that the state that was established on 5th Iyar 5708 (1948), as it stands today, is still a far cry from that dreamlike vision that has warmed our hearts for almost two thousand years. It is not difficult to understand why many Torah and mitzvah observant Jews are reluctant to identify themselves with the state and its symbols. Attesting to this problem are the festivities of Yom Ha’atzmaut, around which rages a long and intense controversy within the religious community in Israel.

Introduction to the Platform One might suppose that the differences of opinions will not end in the near future. However, we can and must rise above them and unite regarding the main issue, which is: what type of state do we want and what are we doing to achieve it? This is a constructive and positive activity that relates to the future with the goal of rectifying and healing reality, instead of harping incessantly on the past and present situations. This vision should be so inviting and pleasant that every Jewish individual will readily want to identify with it, culminating in a critical mass of change – the “tipping point” – when a broad spectrum of the public will be active in actualizing the vision.

But before we present our “platform” for rectifying the state, it is important to stress that the order should not be perceived as inflexible – like a binding mathematical sequence – but as an initial suggestion within which there is a lot of room for flexibility. In practice, we need to turn a sensitive ear to what happens in reality – as in the Kabbalistic concept of “returning light” – seeing what needs to be done and how best to act at every given moment. This is because reality is dynamic, and just as our psyche does not necessarily work “according to the book,” and will never be a programmed computer, so too real life is constantly developing and changing. Thus a large measure of sensitivity is needed to determine how to act within it and how to elevate it.

Spiritual Motivation – the Crown

Rectifying the state of Israel begins from the “above ground” sefirah of keter (crown). It is from here that the rest of the system flows. Like a crown that is placed on top of the head, this sefirah represents the level of super-conscious experience in the soul. Within the crown are the three levels of faith, pleasure, and will.

The first thing that is needed to change a situation is faith, specifically the faith which begins with belief in God, the Creator, who does only good, and concludes with faith in the pleasant future that awaits us, “I believe with perfect faith that Mashiach will arrive.”

After the level of faith comes pleasure where abstract faith begins to be integrated as an initial experience of pure, simple pleasure that revives the soul. Here, even faith in the coming of Mashiach is no longer something ethereal and vague, but manifests as a motivating power, which we can tap into by in-depth study of those Torah issues that relate to redemption.

A Time to Perfect Ourselves and Thereby the World

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Note from Harry Maryles: R. Netanel is a young man (age 20) who learns in Yeshivas  Mir Yerushalayim. He studied at Hasmonian in London and describes his Hashkafos as moderate Charedi  influenced by Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch and Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik.

Netanel  runs a Torah Website  - Geshmak Torah - which he describes as “a user-friendly Dvar Torah service with compelling, “say-able” Divrei Torah. gTorahmakes them navigable, accessible, and pleasant to read; with content that will speak to everyone”.

I am pleased to post this Dvar Torah submitted by him for Erev Yom Kippur. His words follow.

As Moshe winds down in his final address to the people, he reiterates the responsibility they took on when they agreed the covenant at Sinai:

Today, Hashem your God commands you to perform these laws and statutes; to guard and keep them – with all your heart and soul. Regarding Hashem you have said today, that He will be a god to you; that you will walk in his ways, to keep his laws and statutes; and listen to His voice.

Hashem has said of you this day, for you to be a Chosen People for Him, as He has said to you; and you will keep His mitzvos. And He will place you supreme, above all the nations He made; for praise, honour and glory, that you would be a holy nation dedicated to Him, as was said (26:16-19).

The first part relates to our commitment to the relationship, and the second part to Hashem’s commitment. The transition though, is quite difficult:

Hashem has said of you this day, for you to be a Chosen People for Him, as He has said to you; and you will keep His mitzvos.

The opening is clearly Hashem speaking of us, but the ending, which discusses mitzva performance is clearly back to our commitment. How is adherence to Torah related to being called Am Segula? Whose commitment is this about? And what is the supremacy granted as a result?

Rabbeinu Bachye teaches that being called Am Segula – “chosen” – is not what it seems at face value. It is not a status we are born with; it is a title, an achievement that we have to work towards.

Similarly with circumcision. The very first mitzva a newborn is party to is a microcosm of the Jewish mission; perfecting what we have with what we are given, working towards the ultimate goal of perfection.

Rabbeinu Bachye says that the entire verse pertains to our commitment –– we just have to earn it.

So being chosen is in fact a bestowing of responsibility, but is in turn rewarded with being “supreme” over the other nations. What does this mean?

R. Shamshon Refael Hirsch writes how when the responsibilities are met, the world becomes a better place. The world is damaged, and being a better person repairs it.

Adam was commanded to “conquer” the world, when he was still all alone. His conquest was through listening to God; this is how all the animals knew to come to him to be named – they perceived godliness in him.

The same with Yakov – the Torah emphasises how he left Beersheba and went to Charan. The former seems redundant – it should only matter that he arrived somewhere – and the answer is that his departure does matter. When someone righteous leaves or goes somewhere, the environment and atmosphere of the place fundamentally change.

There is a story told of a young Chafetz Chaim, who saw the ills of the world, and decided to change the world. Seeing that the task was too monumentally large, he changed his mind, and set out to change his community. After seeing that that too was impossible, he downgraded his ambitions again, and decided that if he could not make them better, he’d at least himself.

And by making himself better, he really did change the world.

R. Hirsch teaches that by being better people, the world becomes a better place. There is famine, war, child slavery and kidnapping in the world, and while people attempt to deal with the symptoms, it is ultimately futile if humans aren’t more humane.

This is also what we mean when we make brachos, when we say Asher Kidshanu; and what we mean we say Ata VChartanu on Yomim Tovim – the very next words confirm that v’Kidashtanu b’Mitzvosecha – what distinguishes us is our mitzvos.

The Torah assures us that perfection of the world comes through perfection of self. On Rosh HaShana we daven for the world to become a better place. It’s in our hands to make it so.

Visit the Emes Ve-hmunah blog.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/a-time-to-perfect-ourselves-and-thereby-the-world/2012/09/27/

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