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(First published in The Jewish Press, October 6, 1972. From the anthology, “Beyond Words” Volume 1.)

Ever so seldom in history, moments emerge that are pregnant with greatness. The pity is that to only a few are they starkly obvious. Most men, so long engrossed in their own petty lives and personal trivia, become as small as the things that surround them and thus blinded to greatness and incapable of recognizing it. The moment exists, however, despite this, and while promising spectacular heights of greatness if seized at the proper time, it offers only spectacular disaster when allowed to pass by. The duality of the Moment of Greatness is clear and indisputable. Either we grasp it for monumental good or it seizes us for monumental disaster.

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When does such a moment arise in history? Only in times of great crisis. At an age when people have become lost, disillusioned, and begin groping desperately for answers. After they have tried all manner of illusion, only to find disillusion, and after they have eaten and drunk from all kinds of strange dishes and wells, only to discover that they are hungrier and thirstier than ever. At a time when they are driven and obsessed by a frustration and boredom of the soul that gives them no respite, and when the idols and icons of their time lie broken and shattered, having failed to give them the answers and solutions they so eagerly promised. It is at times such as these that the Moment of Greatness arrives and that the future and fate of humanity

teeters, for a moment, on the precipice of history, awaiting the answer to the question:

Will man seize the opportunity and grasp truth?

For let it be clear, it is at such moments, when all the falsehoods are momentarily laid bare and when all the illusions lie shattered before his eyes, that Man has the chance to return to sanity and Greatness. If he does, the world is uplifted and within it grasps salvation of soul and mind. If he does not, it is doomed to plunge into a whirlpool of madness and anarchy, the product of a frenetic and mindless attempt to escape from the horror of being lost.

We live today in such a moment. We teeter, now, on the brink. It is true for all of us and truer yet for the Jew. We have emerged from a frantic and exhausting period of Jewish history that saw us run pell-mell down the path of escape from ourselves and our heritage. When the gates of the Ghetto were flung open and the walls that shut the Jew from the Gentile world came crashing down; when Emancipation beckoned as some Greek siren offering the pleasure of this world for payment of the next; when the Jew was suddenly given the opportunity to be a goy and surpass him at it — how eagerly we threw overboard all our Jewish spiritual baggage!

How we believed all the false prophets and how we drank eagerly from all the poisoned water! How we ran toward all the glittering frauds and away from the strong and eternal Jewish verities! How we believed in Reform and Assimilation and Enlightenment and Cultural Pluralism and Liberalism and Democracy and Socialism and Marxism and Participatory Democracy and Chairman Mao and

Comrade Leon and Rationalism and the inherent decency of man . . . All of it died in the flames of Auschwitz and the mockery of Stalinist trials and the madness of an irrational mob.

It is good. The illusions have been laid bare and the fraud exposed and the answers shown to be dead ends. And millions of Jews stand today with no more of an answer than they had 100 years ago but with, nevertheless, much more than those of the past century. For we, at least, know at last what is NOT THE WAY. We need not be betrayed by false priests and falser doctrines. At least, we know that all the escapes from Jewishness are dead ends and worse. If so, we have taken our first step out of the darkness and into the light of sanity. We stand at the moment of truth and have the opportunity of creating great things in ourselves and from ourselves. If we only listen; if we only open our hearts; if we only have the courage to break with the little people.

To the young, I offer a challenge. Be Jewish — totally, fully, completely. Throw yourselves into those waters that nourished and gave life — glorious life and meaning — to mere existence. Share in the miracles that were commonplace in the days of our great-grandparents; share in the reality and meaningfulness of every moment that were understood so well by the elderly Jew whom your parents so foolishly disdained.

To be a Jew is to understand that Jewishness is different, special. That there is a concept of “chosen” and “set apart” and that is indeed the role of the Jewish people. There is indeed a standard of excellence and holiness and purity and that is the mission of the Jewish people. “A nation of priests, and a holy people” (Exodus 19:6). This is our mission and this is our destiny. It is a destiny that is so demanding and so beautiful; that is ours, and we can neither flee from it nor should we desire to. It is a mission that presupposes a real and tangible and eternal G-d; not the pallid and disgusting version that is trotted out every High Holiday in the temples of suburbia and the like. It is a mission that calls for pride in its specialness and that demands that we pick ourselves up and leave the exile that despoils us so physically and destroys us spiritually. It calls for a return to the Land — our land, not anyone else’s — where we can build and create this special peoplehood.

I offer you a challenge. There is an opportunity for you to come and live on the land in a settlement in Eretz Yisroel. It is a challenge to a hard life, one that will not see glory and wealth and that does not elevate the doctor, the lawyer or the CPA. It is a life and a society that will give you nothing but the quiet happiness of knowing that you are building the land — THE land, your land. It will give you nothing but peace and contentment and a share of eternity. It will only let you know that your life has meaning and permanence. To come to a new, virgin territory; to watch the soil of Eretz Yisroel grow beneath your feet; to create a new settlement with your own hands, where none was before you came; to raise your children and theirs in their own land. Is this a challenge, or is it not?

Let us build new settlements in Israel together.

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Rabbi Meir Kahane, former editor of The Jewish Press, was a prolific writer on everything Jewish. Donny Fuchs and David Israel are collaborating, using Kahane's original writings, to produce this column, "What would Kahane say?"