Celebrating its 75th anniversary, Israel stands as a land of profound religious, historical, and cultural significance. The nation’s achievements across various fields are exceptional, but the quest to harmonize authentic Jewish life within its diverse societal fabric remains a complex challenge. To explore this intricate balance, we draw upon the wisdom of the Hebrew prophets, whose teachings on righteousness, justice, and adherence to Torah principles give insight towards achieving unity, prosperity, and success.
Jewish values, anchored in the Torah and Talmud, form the foundation of Jewish life and identity. These values, including Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), Tzedakah (charity), Chesed (kindness), and the pursuit of justice, have persisted across millennia, preserving the essence of God’s commandments while creating a diverse and vibrant tapestry of beliefs and practices.
In Israel, the task of balancing authentic Jewish life is heightened by the coexistence of religious and secular Jews, as well as interactions with the Arab population. The nation’s attempts to maintain religious traditions while embracing modernity and progress can lead to tensions between right-wing religious and left-wing non-religious factions. Moreover, external threats, such as terrorist activities by radical organizations both within and outside Israel, along with antisemitic rhetoric and efforts to delegitimize Israel’s accomplishments, add further complexity to this delicate balance.
Beyond the complexities of dealing with hostile and violent groups residing within Israel’s borders—who inflict pain and suffering primarily upon their own people, which subsequently translates into violence against Israelis seeking peaceful and successful lives—we must look inward to find a way forward.
The teachings of the Hebrew prophets, including Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Amos, offer invaluable insights into the importance of upholding Torah principles, righteousness, and justice. These prophets conveyed the divine message that adherence to these principles would lead the Jewish people to success in the land, accompanied by prosperity and peace.
Jeremiah’s teachings, for instance, can be found in Jeremiah 22:3, where he emphasizes the pursuit of justice and fair treatment of people: “So said the Lord: Perform justice and charity, and rescue the robbed from the hand of the robber, and to a stranger, an orphan, and a widow do no wrong, do no violence, and shed no innocent blood in this place.” In this passage, Jeremiah calls upon the Jewish people to act justly, protect the vulnerable, and avoid committing acts of violence.
Isaiah (58:6-7) encourages the Jewish people to pursue righteousness through acts of kindness and charity: “Is this not the fast I will choose? To undo the fetters of wickedness, to untie the bands of perverseness, and to let out the oppressed free, and all perverseness you shall eliminate. Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and moaning poor you shall bring home; when you see a naked one, you shall clothe him, and from your flesh you shall not hide.”
These messages aligns with the broader themes of righteousness and justice present in the teachings of other Hebrew prophets. By stressing the importance of adhering to these principles, the prophets message encourages the Jewish people to remain true to their values, even in the face of challenges and adversity. The prophets also caution against the consequences of turning away from Torah principles and neglecting righteousness and justice. They warn that doing so can result in misfortune for the Jewish people and their land, emphasizing the importance of maintaining these values as the bedrock of society.
Amos (5:14 -15) reinforces this message, imploring the Jewish people to uphold justice and righteousness: “Seek good and not evil in order that you live, and so the Lord God of Hosts shall be with you, as you said. Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; perhaps the Lord God of Hosts will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.”
Throughout the pursuit of righteousness and justice, we must also adhere to an important rule taught in the Talmud which commands a preemptive action against someone who poses a direct and immediate threat to one’s life and certainly when the nation is under attack: “if someone comes planning to kill you, you should hurry to kill him first” — Talmud.
The insights from the prophets offer a roadmap for navigating the complexities of modern Jewish life in Israel, helping maintain a balance between authentic Jewish traditions and the need for security. Israel should prioritize diplomacy, dialogue, and cooperation whenever possible. By focusing on the timeless wisdom regarding righteousness, justice, and peace, Israel can work towards a more unified and prosperous future for the nation and its people while remaining prepared to address the challenges and threats that may arise.
By doing so, we can create a more inclusive and unified society, and maintain a high level of deterrence through an uncompromising and non “politically correct” attitude towards anyone who thinks about causing us harm. This approach lays the foundation for a formidable, prosperous, and peaceful Israel that continues to inspire Jewish people worldwide.
The journey to balance authentic Jewish life in Israel is complex and challenging, yet the wisdom of the Hebrew prophets provides invaluable guidance for this endeavor. As Israel celebrates its 75th anniversary, let us remember the teachings of the prophets, commit to upholding the principles of Torah, righteousness, and justice, and work together towards a brighter, more unified, and prosperous future for the nation of Israel and its people in the years to come.