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Judaism: Measure for Measure

The "disengagement" of the leadership from power.
Published: Monday, February 26, 2007 7:59 PM


One cannot help but be intrigued and very concerned by the complete collapse at all levels of the Israeli political, judicial and security framework.
 
The Army Chief of Staff, Dan Halutz, along with some of his generals have left office due to their bungling of the last war in Lebanon. The heads of the taxation authority departments have been removed from their positions due to serious suspicions of illegal activity. Israeli President Moshe Katzav is being accused of immoral and violent behavior. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is being accused in the streets of masterminding the downfall of all political opponents. One of those opponents is Haim Ramon, the minister of justice who has resigned as well, after being convicted of immoral conduct.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert takes breaks between dealing with all the accusations against him of improper and illegal behavior by leaving the country or being otherwise involved in endless spats with his minister of defense. The minister of defense, on the other hand, has revealed that his greatest talent is his bumbling and fumbling all the major responsibilities he has been given. Most recently, the higher echelon of the police, including the chief of police, Moshe Karadi, has resigned after being threatened with dismissal due to their involvement with a "crime family" in the south.

Utter and complete chaos.

It has been tempting for some to connect all these events to the prolonged coma of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and to surmise that there is a Divine mida keneged mida (measure-for-measure) process unfolding before our eyes. The fact that Sharon, Olmert, Halutz, Peretz, Ramon and Karadi were all integral to the planning and execution of the Gaza Strip expulsion of Jews has led some to assume that the deterioration and crumbling that one sees all around is directly linked to, and is a result of, the Gush Katif story. Those who brought about the Disengagement have themselves been "disengaged" from power and prestige. While it may be tempting, the assumption is both theologically and ideologically dangerous.

On the one hand, the removal of 10,000 Jews from their homes and the giving of land to our terrorist enemies has proven to be not only foolish and self-destructive, but may prove to be one of the greatest spiritual tragedies in Israel's short history. A modern recreation of the Biblical Sin of the Spies on the same piece of land and during the same calendar dates makes it difficult not to ascribe Biblical parameters for all that has happened since.

Yet, assuming that we understand clearly and can define the intricate ways of the Divine process is not only self-defeating but also dangerous. The concept assumes knowledge of the heart and soul of all the decision-makers and, more importantly, assumes knowledge regarding the specifics of the Divine plan. Such a concept also does not take into ac
G-d's very unique way of meting out mercy tempered with justice can never truly be understood by mere mortals.
count the pain and suffering of all the victims of these moves. Most importantly, by clearly defining the who is at fault, it attempts to absolve the responsibilities of all the rest the Jewish people who may have felt a kinship with the residents of Gush Katif, but who did not do more than "watch and weep."

G-d's very unique way of meting out mercy tempered with justice can never truly be understood by mere mortals.

Yet, on a human and mortal level, the process of "measure for measure" is very clear and compelling. The same small-minded and selfish, immediate-gain focus that spawned Sharon's Disengagement Plan led to the creation of the Kadima party and ensured the rise of small-minded, selfish and greed-focused politicians. The Disengagement Plan never had any sound logic behind it. You do not retreat from a strategic area filled with terrorists bent on your destruction without receiving some form of guarantees. Yet, when big money and international prestige was thrown into the mix, decisions were made and actions taken that destroyed homes and vanquished dreams. Not surprisingly, in the end, it only served to stoke up the fires of terrorism.

It is these same politicians and leaders that continued their reign focused on power, money and selfishness. In the very earthly version of mida keneged mida, it is no wonder that it is those very traits that brought all these politicians and leaders down, measure for measure.

In the the Torah, we read of the preparations for the building of the Tabernacle and we hear the following words: "'Speak unto the children of Israel, that they take for Me an offering; of every man whose heart maketh him willing ye shall take My offering." (Exodus 25:2) Our sages point out that the wording "that they take for Me an offering" seems out of place when discussing a free-will offering. The words should have been "that they give me an offering." Our sages remind us that the secret of giving is that within the giving lies the kernel of taking and receiving.

The modern state of Israel was created by people who understood the secret of this giving. It was that sense that gave them the power for the sacrifice and effort necessary to create a nation "in one day." Yet, as vision waned and the children of the early pioneers lost their sense of destiny, that secret was lost. Jewish tradition states that the harmony of life demands a delicate balance between giving and receiving. Receiving without giving results in a corrupted soul, and such souls become so embroiled in their taking that they can never be satisfied.

It is that insatiable need to take and get without giving back that has eventually led, as it always does, to the downfalls of today, measure for measure.