Rabbi Eliezer Melamed
Rabbi Eliezer Melamed PR photo

The identity card of the People of Israel is the vision to establish in the Land of Israel a great and blessed nation that adheres to the values ​​of faith, charity and justice, and brings blessing to all families of the world. As God said to our forefather Abraham when he assigned him this great task:

“And God said to Abram, “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse the one who curses you; and all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you.” (Genesis 12:1-3).

This is because God knew our forefather Abraham’s deep commitment to faith in God, which includes identification with the divine ideals, an endless desire to bring goodness, blessing, and rectification to all the nations of the earth and to all human beings, as it is said:

“Since Abraham is to become a great and populous nation and all the nations of the earth are to bless themselves by him. For I have singled him out, that he may instruct his children and his posterity to keep the way of God by doing what is just and right, in order that God may bring about for Abraham what has been promised him” (ibid. 18:18-19).

In order for us to fulfill the great vision, God gave us the Torah, so that in the light of its guidance and commandments, we can engage in the improvement of the world, and establish state institutions committed to imparting the values ​​of truth and goodness.

This vision enlightened our long days of exile, gave us strength to endure the torment, and strengthened the faith that one day we would return to our beloved land, inherit it, make its wasteland bloom, the land would once again give off its good harvest, and we would merit to fulfill the great vision of the People of Israel throughout its generations, and spread blessing to all families of the earth.

Blessing in a Natural and Logical Way

It is of utter importance to emphasize: the objective is not that obedience to God’s command will bring blessing by way of a miracle. The misconception that causes a person to rely on a miracle led to the Sin of the Spies, and caused the entire generation that left Egypt to die in the desert. Only their sons who were willing to fight together with Yehoshua for the conquest and settlement of the land – without relying on a miracle – merited entering and possessing the land.

In recent times as well, the thought that if we obey God’s commandments we will be gathered to our land by a miracle, led once more to the “Sin of the Spies”, and as a result, countless Jews did not respond to the Zionist call to immigrate to Israel, remained in exile, and were oppressed under Communist rule and murdered by the Nazis and their aides. Many others lost all hope for a miracle, and assimilated into the Gentiles.

Therefore, it is our obligation to constantly reiterate and remind ourselves the guidance of Torah is that by means of its mitzvot we are able to improve our ways, and the individual, along with all his passions, inclinations and talents will be more successful in choosing good, and the nation, with all its diversity, will be able to establish public institutions that express the values ​​of truth and goodness. In this manner, the People of Israel will merit blessing naturally and rationally in all areas of life, in such a way that everyone understands that when adhering to faith and choosing goodness – in general, goodness increases, and life becomes meaningful and full of blessing.

The Time Has Come

By the grace of God, by means of the self-sacrifice of the pioneers and soldiers, the State of Israel was established, and inspired by faith and Torah it is growing ever more prosperous, and we have a wonderful opportunity to be partners in its further development. I will attempt to illustrate the path to the realization of the vision, in the light of the guidance of the Torah.

Work: In the Torah, we learn about the enormous value of work. Our forefathers worked diligently, and were blessed. Even when Jacob our forefather had every reason to neglect his work, he continued to work diligently and faithfully, and was privileged to rejoice in his labor. Numerous mitzvot and halakhot instruct us to respect an employee and his work. The more we are able to educate towards the value of work, the more diligent and loyal labor force we will have, and blessing will increase.

Truth and justice: Many commandments guide us to be honest people and keep our promises. An employer must pay his employee’s full salary and not delay it, even for a day. An employee must work faithfully and fulfill his obligation. Businessmen and merchants must behave honestly – not to deceive, or cheat. Their ‘yes’ should be ‘yes’, and their ‘no’ should be ‘no’.

However, individual education towards values ​​of truth is not enough, because at times, the human urge to cheat or steal, or to be lazy and neglect one’s commitment, overcomes a person. For that reason the Torah commands us to establish a judicial system with police officers to enforce the law, and appoint honest and uncorrupted judges who show no preference to the powerful and the rich. The stronger and more reliable the legal system is, the more conflicts are prevented in advance, because the powerful know that if they try to cheat, there is a legal system that will prevent them. And even when conflicts arise, as is normal in human society, court trials will be just, thus putting the mind of society at ease.

In the natural course of things, as a result of education about the value of work, truth and justice, the entire economy will prosper, and it will be more profitable to initiate, invest, forge partnerships, and manufacture. In this way the workforce will increase, unemployment will decrease, and the blessing for the individual and society as a whole will escalate – for the glory of the people, and the country.

Science: The Torah relates to science with great respect, to the point where it is said that a person who lacks one of the world’s wisdoms, lacks ten countermeasures in the Torah (Rabbi Kook in the name of the Gra). The sciences reveal the divine wisdom in the act of Bereshit (Genesis). In addition, science is extremely beneficial to man for his well-being and health, and its development encompasses the value of work, and the settlement of the country. Therefore, in a proper Jewish education, the study of the sciences must be greatly encouraged, each student according to his ability. Highly talented students who can engage in the development of science for the sake of increasing knowledge, and for the benefit of the lives of individuals and society must also be encouraged. As a result of such an education, we can hope to raise more scientists who can contribute to humanity, and even workers in other fields will be able to deepen their understanding of their jobs, and develop them. As a result, everyone will be able to enrich their work with new ideas, grow to be outstanding employees, and contribute to society as a whole.

Family Values

Many mitzvahs in the Torah are intended to strengthen the loyalty and love between spouses, to the point where our Sages said that a man and a woman who are privileged to live in love and loyalty, the Shekinah (Holy Presence) rests between them. For indeed divine unity, on a small scale, is revealed in the unity between husband and wife. The mitzvah is for a man to care for the well-being and happiness of his wife no less than he cares for himself, and for a wife to care for her husband’s well-being and happiness no less than she cares for herself.

The Torah also commanded ‘pru u’revu’ (to procreate). The Torah obligation is to have one son and one daughter, according to our Sages four children, and those who have more are considered as having fulfilled a ‘hiddur mitzvah’ (enhancement of the mitzvah). At the same time, many mitzvahs deal with the education of children, and conversely, children are commanded to honor their parents. Shabbats and holidays, when families meet for pleasure and rest, provide quality time for children’s education.

Thanks to all these values ​​and commandments, it can be assumed that despite all the temptations and difficulties, more parents will merit having a faithful, happy and empowering relationship, and be able to educate their children to continue on their path. Beyond the personal benefit of a good family life, it also contributes to society, since people whose family life is good are generally more stable in their work, are able to contribute more to society, and are more successful in educating their children to persevere in their studies, acquire a higher education and profession, and contribute to society and the nation.

Additionally, the more we succeed in educating towards family values, the more we will benefit from demographic growth, which, when accompanied by a good education in Torah, science and work, contributes to society and the economy in all respects.

Today, the world is divided: in scientifically and economically developed societies, the family is disintegrating, there is a demographic decline, the population is aging, and in the following phase, the economy is also affected. On the other hand, scientifically and economically backward societies grow demographically, but in the absence of economic and scientific growth, poverty increases.

We, here in the State of Israel, are succeeding in establishing a society that has demographic, economic, and scientific growth. Unfortunately, not everyone is included in the blesing, but the more we adhere to the set of Torah values, the more people will succeed in both fields, in such a way that the economic-scientific progress will strengthen the family, and the family will strengthen the economic-scientific progress.

Torah Study

In order to fulfill all these values, there is a mitzvah to set times for Torah study, for by doing so, we revisit and learn all the mitzvahs dealing with honesty and truth, and the value of work and creativity. From Torah study, we can also draw inspiration to develop new ideas, and find solutions to complicated problems. To this end, special attention must paid that the study of Torah indeed be the Holy of Holies: on the one hand, of most important status, and on the other hand, a fountain for all, in a way that Torah does not supplant the status of work and science, but strengthens them.

In addition, we must take heed that religious conservatism does not prevent creative freedom and responsibility to change and rectify the world, but on the other hand, the values ​​of freedom do not prevent devotion to moral and family values.

The Blessing

Hence, following the path of Torah and mitzvot should add blessing and joy to families, inspiration to the education system, justice and kindness to society, meaning and value to the individual, innovation to science, diligence and creativity to work, productiveness in the arts, vigor to the economy, and honesty to business. If, thanks to all this goodness, the annual GDP of the State of Israel grows “only” two percent higher on average than other developed countries, and scientific development for the benefit of humanity continues to advance consistently “only” two percent more than other developed countries, and the blessed demographic growth continues as it is in the religious society – within a few generations, the Jewish nation of Israel, living its land, will number tens of millions, and will lead the world in terms of values, science, and economics.

The Jews of the Diaspora will yearn to ascend and be part of the success, and even descendants of Israel who were lost to us under the pressure of the hardships of exile, will seek to find their roots, and return to their people and country. Thus, a great and very populous nation will declare faith and justice to the world, pave the way for moral education and intellectual development for the benefit of humanity, innovate methods and technologies for longevity and quality of life, and we will merit to see the fulfillment of Redemption, as the vision of the prophets:

“In the days to come, the mount of the God’s house shall stand firm above the mountains, and tower above the hills; and all the nations shall gaze on it with joy. And the many peoples shall go and say: “Come, let us go up to the mount of God, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may instruct us in His ways, and that we may walk in His paths.” For Torah shall come forth from Zion, the word of God from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:23).

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew.