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Op-Ed: Your Rosh Hashana Challenge

Can you name an ideal that can actually grow and strengthen from generation to generation, instead of weakening over time?
Published: Wednesday, September 04, 2013 2:29 PM


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 Europe: the PIGS—Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain—have economies that are on the verge of collapse.  They have become beggars, not producers.

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.

The Arab Spring has become a season of fire and destruction. Japan faces a nuclear meltdown.

Israel has none of this. Why should we desire to be like everyone else? They falter and fail. We don’t.

America was once great. She began almost two hundred and fifty 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.

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.

We are ready for greatness. But time is short. Rosh Hashanna is near. Judgment approaches.

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 many times and places. It must be vibrant enough to become a living tradition that can take root in the mind---and stick, from generation to generation.

We stand on the threshold of greatness.  But without a unifying ideal, we will not cross that threshold. We will become like everybody else. We will fail.

If the multiculturalism of Europe and the Americanism of the US and the Communism of Russia are faltering—and if the fascism of Hitler and the Totalitarianism of Stalin have failed-- where do we find such an ideal? Do you know?


Greatness lies before us. It’s close enough to touch.
Can you name an ideal that can actually grow and strengthen from generation to generation, instead of weakening over time?

For the last two hundred and fifty years, Man has tried communism, socialism, fascism, totalitarianism, anarchy, chaos, monarchy, Americanism and governing by committee.  Everything man’s mind can create, we have tried.

All of these ideas have worked—for a time. Then, they fail.

There is 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.

Do you know what this singular ideal is? It is an ideal that man rejects.

Man is obsessive. He won’t accept something he cannot control.

Dare we speak of such a singular ideal? Israel’s media won’t. Israel’s academics won’t. Israel’s political leadership won‘t.

Do you know about the unifying ideal that leads to our greatness? 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 is the one ideal that grows stronger in each generation.

This is your Rosh Hashanna awakening: if you want greatness, you must choose Torat HaShem. The challenge is, do you have the courage to make that choice?