Friday, April 12, 2013

A Song for Modern Israel

By Tuvia Brodie

Israel is not perfect. According to a 2012 study by the Gutman Center of the Israel Democracy Institute, only 22 per cent of Israelis consider themselves either ‘dati’ (religious) or ‘Haredi’ (ultra-religious).
For a nation that is supposed to have a Destiny linked to G-d, a religious segment of just 22 per cent of population doesn’t seem like a very good number. It’s a poor showing for G-d. It confirms what many believe: Israel is no place for a religious Jew.
But a closer look at this study reveals a different picture. Israel may not be a religious sink-hole. Israel may actually be ‘G-d’s place’.
The study tells us that 80 per cent of Israelis say they believe in G-d. More significant, 77 per cent say they believe that the Hand of G-d directs mankind and the world; 72 per cent believe that prayer affects what happens to us; and 65 per cent accept the Torah’s Commandments as Divine in origin.
These are not numbers characteristic of a nation uninterested in religion. Instead, they suggest that, contrary to what we believe about ourselves, G-d—and His Torah—live in Israel.
These numbers also reveal that we may have an obsession with putting people into boxes. We categorize according to labels—and by doing that, we get it all wrong.
According to the labels we design, Israel has little interest in G-d. Israel is either secular or (if we believe what we read) on the verge of becoming completely anti-religious.
But the deeper truth is, Israel is the only place in the world where you can get on a bus and see women who are in no way dressed in a ‘proper’ manner reading Psalms, called, ‘Tehillim’—a practice that, in America, is almost exclusively reserved for the ‘religious’; and Israel may also be the only place in the world where  the supposedly ‘non-religious’  regularly say, ‘Baruch HaShem’ (thank G-d), something found in exile mostly from the religious.
These anecdotal experiences, when combined with the Gutman results, suggest that there may be an awareness of G-d and Torah here that has not been accounted for. Instead of apostasy, Israel appears to have a super-majority who not only believe that G-d controls our daily lives, but that our Torah and its Commandments come directly from Him.
No other nation has such a super-majority.
Certainly, Jews in Israel are weak in ritual observance. But they freely admit it (by refusing to call themselves ‘religious’); they appear brutally honest about the fact that they do not measure up to Judaism’s high standards. But they still believe with a complete belief in the Power of G-d. As more than one such Jew has said, ‘I don’t call myself religious because I don’t follow the rules; I apologize for that; but I know who the Boss is; it’s Him, the One Above’.
That is not the statement of an apostate.
To be more accurate in our thinking, perhaps we should call these Jews our silent majority. Yes, they are not a true majority. But, while hidden in the census statistics, they amount to Israel’s largest religious segment (those who accept G-d and Torah but who do not practice ritual). We might be wise to refer to these Jews as our ‘majority’ because when we unite with them, they give us the super-majority we need to build the foundation for our Destiny.
We need that foundation. We need that super-majority. We need its faith. We need its belief that G-d is the Master and His Torah is real. With such a foundation, our Destiny can be ours—but only if we unite, creating a single voice from that 77 per cent supermajority which understands G-d’s Mastery over this world.
When we read the interpretative translation of the Stone edition of our Song of Songs (see The Chumash, The ArtScroll Series, Mesorah Press, Brooklyn, New York, July, 1993, pp. 1263-1266), we get a better understanding of this non-perfect ‘silent majority’. As this translation suggests, the nations should not scorn Israel with its contempt because she is less than pure (ibid, 1:6) or because she has become the keeper of a vineyard of idols (1:6)—for G-d may not view us with the same disgust. He knows we are sinful and imperfect and yet sings to us, ‘Behold you are lovely, my friend, behold you are lovely’ (ibid, 1265, 4:1); and when Israel calls itself blackened with sin but comely with virtue (1:5), G-d does not object.
Together with this silent majority, we can stand before the nations and speak as one, saying, while you may wish me to turn away from my G-d—and while I have faltered in  this regard—I still declare,  ‘My faith is as firm as a wall..and …I become in His eyes like a bride found perfect’ “(ibid, p. 1268, 8:10).
G-d does not object to this self-description. Instead, he replies, ‘Oh, my beloved…’ (8:13).
We might be wise to follow His example.

No comments: