Israel has problems. The European Union wants to boycott us. The United States wants to pressure us. The Arabs want to kill us.
But despite these problems, Israel stands on the threshold of greatness. Look at us. Our economy is one of the strongest in the world. Our research and development is among the best in the world. Our number of patents per capita is among the best in the world.
We are a world leader in business start-ups per capita. Our military is strong. Our recent oil/gas discoveries make us, potentially, the world’s number one energy country.
Greatness lies before us. It’s close enough to touch.
For more than 100 years, Zionism was driven by the desire to ‘be like everyone else’. But we must now re-invent that dream. We have begun to separate ourselves from ‘everyone else’.
Look at everyone else: in Europe, the PIGS—Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain—have economies that are on the verge of collapse. The European experiment with multiculturalism fails. Their social experiment threatens to destroy Europe.
In America, the value of the dollar teeters. China—which controls an enormous portion of US debt—threatens to destabilize America’s debt structure. The International Monetary Fund begins to think about dropping the dollar as the international currency of choice.
In the Middle East, the Arab Spring has become a season of destruction. In the Far East, Japan faces a nuclear melt-down.
Israel has none of this. Why should we desire to be like everyone else? They falter. We don’t.
Yes, America was once great. She began almost two hundred and forty years ago with a singular idea. This idea was called ‘American Freedom’. Not everyone believed it. Not everyone wanted it. Not everyone accepted it. But enough people bought into it that a critical mass was formed—and the American idea of Freedom energized a nation to greatness.
But what worked for America in 1776 does not work now. America falters. She begins to unravel. She no longer inspires.
Now consider Israel. Our nation is like the human soul, driven by inner struggle and conflicting aspirations. But this is not bad news; it is good news. This struggle, these aspirations are the key to our greatness. We are willing to struggle. We yearn. We dream.
The Days of Awe begin tomorrow. Tomorrow, we must remember that greatness: it is no dream.
To borrow from Yoram Hazony (The Jewish State, Basic Books, 2001), if Israel is to become great we must commit to a singular, unifying ideal that can energize our national soul. We need an ideal not just for today or next year; we need an ideal that can be preserved from one generation to the next. This ideal must be robust enough to be applied across centuries. It must be vibrant enough to become a living tradition that can take root in the mind---and grow stronger with each generation.
Without a unifying ideal, we will never cross the threshold of greatness. We will become like everybody else. We will falter.
The multiculturalism of Europe and the Americanism of the US and the Communism of Russia all falter. The fascism of Hitler and the Totalitarianism of Stalin have failed. Where do we find our ideal? Do you know?
Can you name an ideal that can grow and strengthen from generation to generation? Does such an ideal even exist?
For the last two hundred and forty years—since the birth of America--Man has tried communism, socialism, fascism, totalitarianism, anarchy, chaos, monarchy and democracy. Everything man’s mind can create, we have tried.
All of these ideas have worked—for a time. Then, they falter.
There is, however, one idea we have not tried. It is so powerful, it frightens grown men. It frightens men because man cannot control it; and when you believe that all power lies only in the hand of man, then the one thing that frightens you most is giving up control.
Man is that self-centered. He is extraordinarily selfish. He will not accept something he cannot control.
Man’s belief is simple. If I cannot control it, he says, I reject it.
Dare we speak of such an ideal? Certainly, Israel’s media won’t. Israel’s academics won’t. Israel’s political leadership won‘t.
Do you know about this ideal? The signs of it are everywhere. But not everyone believes it. Not everyone wants it. Not everyone accepts it.
Nevertheless, Israel is close to a critical mass. More and more Jews embrace this unifying ideal. They live it.
It is Torat Hashem—the Jewish Heritage. It lasts longer than anything Man has ever created. It is the only ideal that is stronger today than two hundred and forty years ago.
This is our Rosh HaShana awakening: if we want greatness, we must choose Torat HaShem. The challenge is, do we have the courage to make that choice?