Many Israelis recently celebrated Yom Yerushalayim, (“Jerusalem Day”), singing and dancing as they commemorated the recapture of Eastern Jerusalem, forty-seven years ago.
We all know what happened during those fateful moments towards the end of the Six Day War. Before the tears of joy had even dried on our cheeks, before the cries of “The Temple Mount is in our hands” abated, and before the soldiers and their officers had their photographs taken at the Wailing Wall, behind the scenes ready hands were stirring up an agreement that would transfer sovereignty over the Temple Mount to the Islamic Waqf.
The state officials could cope with the Wailing Wall―in fact it seemed that they wanted it very much―but the Temple site felt to them like a hot potato, to be tossed as quickly as possible into someone else’s hands. We have lived with the results for forty-seven years: we have a mountain, but no Temple. We have an external wall, but we do not have the power to pass through it―at least, not as Jews, with tefillin on our heads and a siddur in our hands.
Let’s meditate on this picture for a moment: we have sovereignty over the external side of the mountain, but at the very same time, we have abandoned its inner essence. We own the outside, but we’ve disowned the inside. This picture can serve as a parable for Zionism in general, and provide us with a hint how to progress forward.
The Secret of Kingdom
The goal of Zionism was to put Judaism back on the railroad track of political history. Jews had fostered individual lives, family, and congregation in an exemplary fashion, but we have forgotten how to function as a nation with a sovereign state. Zionism wanted a kingdom so to speak, and was determined to mobilize all the nation’s material and spiritual resources in order to acquire it. Yet, whether because they were distant from the path of Jewish tradition, or because they wished to rebel against it, the Zionist pioneers did not use tools that had been cast in a Jewish mold, but from the spirit of the non-Jewish model of a “nation state.”
According to the Torah’s inner dimension, the idea of the Jewish sovereignty is portrayed by one of the Kabbalistic sefirot – specifically, the final sefirah, referred to as malchut or “kingdom.”
Kabbalah describes the rectified sefirah of kingdom—which manifests in the figure of a monarch or more generally speaking a rectified leader—as being “proud on the outside and lowly on the inside.” In Hebrew, the psychological terms “pride” (גֵאוּת) and “lowliness” (שֶׁפֶל) are identical to the terms for “high tide” and “low tide”, suggesting that pride and lowliness are finely balanced; one is not possible without the other.
Similarly, the rectified leader must combine an external appearance of pride and self-importance, while balancing it with an inner lowliness of spirit. He should know how to demonstrate majesty and authority, but these attributes must be like external clothing (as the verse states, “God has reigned; He has dressed Himself with majesty”). On the inside, he must be infused with precisely the opposite experience, sensing profound lowliness, as if he were God’s slave, not a king. This is the combination that secures his success.
Filling the Empty Space
When we look at the birth of Zionism, we can describe it as a rebellion against a Judaism that rectified only the inner dimension of ‘kingdom’, in favor of the opposite extreme—an “Israelism” that only works on the exterior dimension of kingdom. Judaism in the Diaspora was infused with a great deal of lowliness and humility, bowing its head to God and patiently awaited the arrival of Mashiach. Zionism rejected that, shaking off the attribute of lowliness and exchanging it for a vision of national pride, taking our fate into our own hands and founding a strong, stable, but secular state.