Menachem Schechter

Kicking the Can Down the Road of History

For millennia now, Jews have been waiting for our big reveal. Bearing a mission, anointed by God to spread His light in the world, we have so much to share- if only.  If only we weren’t wandering the earth, chased by Inquisitions, pogroms and persecution, we would share our Holy message. If only we had a land of our own, with security, self-determination and freedom. If only the secular, socialist founders of the modern Israel had our input – what a glowing light unto Nations we would be. Well Torah Judaism- are we ready for our close up?

Much can be said of the ultra-Orthodox bloc, who accept the blessings of a modern State, while contribute little to its economy and security. In truth, the haredi community feels that they were shanghaied, coerced into joining a State not of their choosing. Though Rabbi Yitzhak Meir Levin , representative of the nascent ultra Orthodox population in the nascent State and member of Ben Gurion’s cabinet, signed  Israel’s Declaration of Independence, this may have been more out of necessity, not principle. A Modern Jewish State is not part of the haredi vision of a messianic era, begrudgingly accepted as better than the other option. What of the Religious Zionist community, who embrace Rav AY Kook’s vison of the evolution of the Jewish people from Exilic , galuti, individuals to a nation, in its homeland. I implore religious Zionist leaders to reread Rav Kook’s seminal work, Orot, but not just the parts relating to Jewish exceptionalism and the centrality of the Land of Israel, but also the sections on Israel’s, the People and the Land, place in sharing God’s message  to the world.

Never has the world been more ripe to listen. Modern Israel has become the darling of the world, exporting its technology and know-how, from Waze to water purification. Even the Arab nations, Israel’s longtime foes, accept and perhaps even embrace the reality of Israel. Now is the time for Torah Judaism to step up and share its gifts, borne through the vicissitudes of time.  What is our mission, our message, our gift to the world? I would hope it includes our morality, our selflessness, our hope for a better world, our dedication in building that world. Sadly, the image we are projecting instead is that of tribalism, racism and self-interest. Does this tragic missed opportunity shock me? A quick review of Jewish history, especially the internal strife and divisions of the First and Second Temple periods should enlighten us to Jews’ “never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity” (to misappropriate Abba Eban’s notable quip). So, will we grab this chance to bring light into the world or will we just kick the can down the road?

About the Author
Menachem Schechter is a gastroenterologist practicing in Jerusalem. He made aliyah with his family from New York.
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