Michael Wasserman (https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/defending-the-broken-tablets-on-the-pro-democracy-protests/), please note there were two arks and two sets of tablets, one broken, one whole.
When I read Wasserman’s article, a few questions sprang to mind:
How can a country with no prior heritage produce the world’s leading whiskey?
How did a people with minimal agricultural experience for 2,000 years return to a land of swamp and desert and soon become the world leader for agricultural productivity?
How does a country that is subject to existential threat, subject to almost daily terrorist onslaught, subject to periodic rocket blitzes which confine a significant portion of the national population to bomb shelters for days on end, and subject to persistent yet still growing worldwide hatred and disproportionate singling out for condemnation by the ‘international community’, become the fourth happiest country in the world?
It seems to me we have two possible explanations.
We can take the view of national chauvinism and say, it is because we Jews just happen to be completely brilliant, and we just happen to have developed superior genetics, superior psychology, and/or superior systems (OECD completely disagrees with the latter, by the way, having completely slated the Israeli education system, just as one example).
Or we can say it is absolutely nothing at all to do with our brilliance (as Torah itself reminds us, we are the ‘least of all people’, ‘stiff-necked’ and ‘argumentative’) but much more to do with what I call ‘the shadow of Torah’, the fulfilment throughout the ages of prophecies made to our forefathers, realised on a rationalist and/or mystical basis, whichever way you lean:
Rationalist – the structures, thought processes and habits from millennia of Torah study and Mitzvot performance have created in-built instincts, capacities and values among today’s secular, as well as the religious, who are all branches from the same tree;
Mystical – Torah study and Mitzvot performance create the flow of blessing from heaven to earth.
Or the rationalist and mystical approaches are two ways of saying the same thing.
So yes, the broken tablets are important. For religious people like me, we should meditate on why many of the ancient prophecies seem to be being fulfilled today through secular Jews. This in turn may serve as a helpful reminder for us to have not just spiritual but in fact total humility, as Wasserman well notes, which is a supreme Torah value.
And yet the whole tablets are also essential. We should also meditate on how, across ‘the West’ (I hate that term), despite all the ‘blessings of democracy’, social decay, depression and family breakdown are so prevalent, while the birth rate has fallen in many of these countries below the national replacement rate. Why is that? And what makes Israel different?
There is only one answer – Torah. Let us not confuse epistemology (what we know) with ontology (what exists). Moshe is true and his Torah is true. And as the popular saying goes, use it or (G-d forbid) lose it…