The Jewish people need a strong new unifying voice.
The Jewish people need that voice to present a narrative that can unify and galvanise the entire Jewish people at a time of triple crisis:
– existential crisis as the threat from the Iran axis grows and the international community rehashes 1930s-style appeasement so that Israel, like Churchill, stands alone before an ideologically uncompromising hostile force;
– identity crisis as growing worldwide antisemitism leads to a retreat from the proud Jewish self-identification we had started to take for granted after three generations;
– ideological crisis as the particularist Torah-based and the universalist secularising wings of the Jewish people increasingly fracture and fight.
Rabbi Sacks, in his writings, repeatedly expressed the importance of national narrative. Leadership lies in the ability to articulate the national story, and to frame a set of actions within the context of that story around which the entire nation can rally.
He argues, commenting on this week’s parsha, Chukat, that the reason Moshe Rabbeinu could no longer lead the Jewish people as they entered the Land of Israel was not really about the way in which he drew water from the rock, but rather because the nation needed a new leader, a new voice, for a new generation.
Today, the Jewish people miss a strong unifying voice.
Politics in Israel seems hopelessly factionalized, each faction seeking the interest of its own faction to the negation of the interests of the Jewish people as a whole.
No one seems able to transcend this factionalism, neither the political or religious leadership in Israel, nor a voice from the diaspora strong enough to close the factionalist vortex that has opened up in Israel and threatens, G-d forbid, to engulf the entire Jewish people around the world.
What does a strong new unifying narrative for the Jewish people entail?
It is not enough, like Israel’s centrist politicians, to take a middle position on the political issues of the day.
Rather, the new narrative must respectively validate and then unify the particularist Torah-based and the universalist secularising wings of the Jewish people, channeling the vibrancy and stridency we see in each, to reframe and articulate the overarching role and purpose of the Jewish people in the world today.