“There arose a new king who did not know Joseph” (Exodus 1:8). With this verse, the Torah introduces the persecution of the Jewish people in Egypt.
A “new king,” however, can sometimes signal a change for the better. Israel is now preparing for new elections, to be held in April. When they are all over, will the country have merited to be run by Torah-observant individuals? Or does such a question belong in the realm of futile imagination?
Over the past two years, we have repeatedly heard the slogan, “Make America Great Again.” What would it take for the Jewish people to be “great again”? What would it take for us to restore the glory of the kingdoms of King David and King Solomon?
Indeed, what is greatness, according to Judaism? Can a Jewish country be defined as great if it has a flourishing economy and a strong army? Or is another component required?
G-d said to Avraham Avinu, the first Jew, “I will make your name great” (Genesis 12:1). He made this declaration after telling him to leave his land, his birthplace, and his father’s house. But why is Avraham’s greatness only mentioned in the Torah now? A parshah earlier, the Torah tells us that Noach was a “righteous man,” which explains why he merited to be spared from the Deluge. Why, then, doesn’t the Torah tell us, for example, that Avraham preached monotheism and was willing to be thrown into a furnace in Ur Kasim for his beliefs? Such a mention would explain why Hashem spoke to Avraham in the first place.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe explained that by placing the command to “leave your land” before “I will make your name great,” the Torah is implying that true greatness only comes by dint of obeying G-d’s commands. Only by doing Hashem’s mitzvos because they He commanded us to do them can we connect, and cleave to, the infinite Creator.
For the Jewish people to truly be great again, therefore, we must adhere to the Torah and keep the mitzvos, and the Jewish state must become the theocracy G-d wants it to be, with all its inhabitants abiding by the Torah’s directives. As history has demonstrated time and again, only allegiance to Torah and mitzvos leads to national Jewish greatness.
The United States was great from its inception. It was built upon divine freedoms and a balance of powers, and even though it maintained something of a separation between state and religion, American society has always recognized G-d as the creator of the world and subscribed to biblical morality.
Over the past 50 years or so, however, the moral core of the United States has weakened due to various factors. In my opinion, this weakening, more than anything else, explains why so many Americans possess a gnawing sense that this country is no longer as great as it once was.
For America, then, to truly be great again, it must reembrace its biblical roots and commit to properly observing the Seven Noahide Laws along with all their derivations. No particular political affiliation is necessary. Embrace divine morality and make America great again.