Is it all or nothing?

Do we say we are still in exile if everything is not perfect in Israel, or as religious Zionism does, show gratitude for what we do have.

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol ,

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol
Rabbi Shlomo Sobol
INN: Daniel Malichi

Is it all or nothing?

In this week’s parsha, the Torah sets a high standard for what the leadership systems of the people of Israel should look like. What do we do when this fails to happen?

“The perfect is the enemy of the good," said French philosopher Francois-Marie Arouet, also known as Voltaire. Sometimes our desire for perfection blinds us to the good that we already have. But how does this relate to our parsha?

The commandments of the Torah can be divided into two categories: those imposed on the individual and those imposed on the community.

Included in the first category are mitzvot performed by the individual, such as recitation of Shema, prayer, kiddush, eating matzah etc.

Mitzvot from the second category are commandments that we must observe as the collective people of Israel. The Jewish people are not meant to be just a group of individuals who keep the commandments but are meant to be a nation who bear the name of G-d in all aspects of their communal life.

In this week’s parsha we are presented with a multitude of “communal commandments”. This is due to the fact that in this week’s Torah portion the Jews are on the verge of entering the Land of Israel, and there are commanded to be a "kingdom of priests and a holy nation" and to establish communal systems through which the name of Heaven is revealed.

The parsha opens with the commandment to establish a judicial system. This mitzvah is not just to establish courts in every city and for each tribe, but also to establish a High Court, a Sanhedrin of seventy judges who sit in the Lishkat HaGazit in Jerusalem, and issue judgments which affect the whole nation.

Next, the Torah teaches us about the appointment of a king over the people of Israel. It is not enough to have local leadership such as a mayor or governor, but we need one general leader who will answer questions and make decisions related to the entire Kingdom of Israel.

Later, the Torah speaks about the priesthood. Here too, the priests, headed by the High Priest, are engaged in atonement for the entire nation and are representatives of all Klal Yisrael in the work of the Temple. They also are the ones who teach the Torah to the nation.

And finally, the Torah teaches us about the subject of prophecy. The prophets are G-d's messengers to the people of Israel to warn them and guide them to walk in the straight and good path.

Throughout our years of exile, we were constantly preoccupied with our survival, both physical and spiritual. The Jew in exile strives to stay alive and to keep the mitzvot imposed upon him as an individual.

In exile all communal commandments do not apply. The way we fulfill our obligations of kings, judges, etc. in exile is through our prayers, as we say "Return our judges to us as before" "And to Jerusalem your city in mercy may you return" "May the seed of David your servant soon grow" etc. A sort of distant dream of the end of times, whose connection to everyday life in exile does not really exist.

And now, we have merited, by the grace of G-d, to return to the Land of Israel. Since the arrival of leaders of Israel and their students about 200 years ago, followed by the establishment of the Zionist movement which led to the establishment of the State of Israel, we have been privileged to rise from the ashes of exile, and gather here in the Land of Israel as a nation. We are now able to, once again, deal with communal questions. We have a state and the state has a prime minister, a judicial system, an army and other public systems.

But anyone who looks at what is happening today in the State of Israel, and what is described in our Torah portion of the week, will see a huge chasm. True, we have the systems that the Torah describes, but they do not function as the Torah commands, and those in charge are often not the ideal role models.

So, we have 2 options. One is to say that if we do not have it all, then we have nothing. If the public systems are not functioning as they should, we are still deep in exile. A second option, which is the underlying concept of religious Zionism, is to show gratitude for what we do have. To thank G-d for bringing us back to the Holy Land and beginning the process which we hope, in time, will lead to our full redemption from exile.

It is true that we have not yet merited the complete redemption, but we thank G-d for the initial stages. We express gratitude to G-d for His wondrous Divine kindness that we are experiencing what all the generations since the destruction of the Temple did not experience - Jewish leadership in the Holy Land.

May we continue to thank G-d for all the good we have been given, and may we merit the complete redemption and the coming of the Messiah at which time King David will reign over us, and we will have prophets to guide us, priests serving in the Temple, and the Sanhedrin sitting in the place G-d chose.

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol is the head of the Barkai organization and the rabbi of the Shaarei Yonah Menachem community in Modi'in.