The Vision

The Jewish people’s “identity card” is the vision of establishing, in Eretz Israel, a great and blessed people that adheres to the values of faith, righteousness, and justice, and that brings blessing to all families of the earth. In order for us to realize this great vision, God gave us the Torah, so that by its guidance and mitzvot we may engage in bettering the world.

The Jewish people’s “identity card” is the vision of establishing, in Eretz Israel, a great and blessed people that adheres to the values of faith, righteousness, and justice, and that brings blessing to all families of the earth. As God said to Abraham while assigning him this great task:

Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto the land that I will show thee. And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and be thou a blessing. And I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse; and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed. (Genesis 12: 1–3)

God knew Abraham’s deep commitment to faith in Him, which encompassed identifying with the Divine ideals and an infinite desire to bring goodness, blessing, and tikkun [rectification] to all nations of the earth and to all people, as it is written:

Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him. For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice; to the end that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which He hath spoken of him. (Genesis 18:18–19)

In order for us to realize this great vision, God gave us the Torah, so that by its guidance and mitzvot we may engage in bettering the world and establish state institutions committed to inculcating the values of truth and goodness.

This vision illumined the days of our long exiles, gave us the strength to endure our suffering, and deepened our faith that a day would come when we would return to our beloved land, inherit it, and make the wilderness bloom; when the land would once again bring forth its harvests, we would be able to fulfill the great vision of the Jewish people through the generations, and blessing would reach all the families of the earth.

Blessing through nature and reason

It must be emphasized that compliance with the Divine command will not bring about blessing by miraculous means. The mistaken approach that causes people to rely on miracles led to the sin of the spies and caused the entire generation of the Exodus to die in the desert. Only their children, who were willing to fight together with Joshua to conquer and settle the land without relying on miracles, were able to enter the land and take possession of it. In the modern age as well, the idea that if we observe the mitzvot, God will gather us into our land through miraculous means led to yet another “sin of the spies”; many did not answer Zionism’s call to go up to the land and remained in exile to be oppressed by the Communists, or murdered by the Nazis and their helpers, while many others despaired of the miracle and assimilated among the nations. We must therefore continually remind ourselves of what the Torah instructs us: that through the mitzvot we will better our ways, and the individual, with all his or her inclinations, tendencies, and talents, will become more successful in choosing the good, while the nation and all who comprise it will build public institutions that reflect values of truth and goodness. And in this way, the Jewish people will be blessed in all areas of life through natural and rational means, in a way that will make it clear to all that when we hold fast to our faith and choose good, the general good multiplies and life becomes meaningful and replete with blessing.

The time has come

By the grace of God, through the deep devotion of the pioneers and the fighting forces, we have seen the founding of the State of Israel. Under the inspiration of faith and Torah the state is flourishing, and we have a wonderful opportunity to be partners in its further advancement. I will try to outline the path toward realizing this vision in light of the Torah’s guidance.

Work: In the Torah we learn about the tremendous value of work. The Patriarchs worked diligently and received blessing. Even when Jacob had every reason to be negligent in his work, he toiled industriously and faithfully and found contentment in his labor. Many mitzvot and halachot direct us to honor workers and their work. The more we teach the value of work, the more diligent and faithful workers we will have, and the more blessing will multiply.

Truth and justice: Many mitzvot direct us to be people of truth, with employers paying their employees their full wages and not delaying payment by even a day, employees working faithfully and fulfilling their obligations, and businesspeople and merchants conducting themselves with integrity and not practicing deception or fraud. We must be people of our word.

But even educating oneself to values of truth is not enough, as one’s impulses sometimes take over and cause one to deceive and steal, or to be lazy and not fulfill one’s obligations. The Torah therefore commands us to establish a justice system, with police to enforce the law and honest judges who dispense justice and do not show partiality to the strong and the wealthy. A robust and trustworthy legal system prevents conflict, as the strong know that if they try to practice deception the justice system will thwart their efforts; moreover, even if conflicts do arise, as happens in human society, the justice system will be fair and satisfactory to the public.

We may conclude that by natural means, through education about the value of work, truth, and justice, the entire economy will flourish, entrepreneurship will be incentivized, and it will be worthwhile to invest, to forge partnerships, and to engage in production. This will enlarge the workforce and reduce unemployment, and blessing will increase for the individual and for society, to the glory of the people and the land.

Science: The Torah treats science with enormous respect. It has even been said (by the Vilna Gaon and Rabbi Kook) that if one is ignorant of even one of the secular sciences, then one is a hundredfold more ignorant of the Torah. The sciences reveal the Divine wisdom inherent in the act of Creation. Furthermore, science is very useful to humanity, to our wellbeing and health, and its development is encompassed within the value of work and of settling the land. Proper Jewish education should therefore strongly promote the study of the sciences, each student according to his or her ability, and should encourage the gifted to engage in scientific development so as to increase knowledge and make life better for people and society. Through such education we may hope to produce more scientists who will contribute to humanity, while workers in various fields will deepen their understanding of their work and expand their efforts to additional fields. This will enable everyone to enrich their efforts with new ideas, to become outstanding workers and to contribute to society as a whole.

Family values: Many mitzvot in the Torah are meant to increase loyalty and love between spouses. It is said that the Shekhina, the Divine Presence, rests between a man and woman who live in love and loyalty, as the Divine unity reveals itself in miniature in the union between husband and wife. The mitzvah is for the husband to be no less concerned for his wife’s welfare and happiness than for his own, while the wife should be no less concerned for her husband’s wellbeing and happiness than for her own. The Torah also commands us to “be fruitful and multiply.” The Torah obligation is to produce a son and a daughter, while our Sages talk about four children; beyond that is considered to be hiddur, or “beautification,” of the mitzvah. At the same time, many mitzvot are concerned with childrearing – and conversely, with children’s obligation to honor their parents. The Shabbatot and festivals when we come together in joy and rest provide quality time for the children’s upbringing.

Despite all the temptations and difficulties that exist, this system of values and mitzvot can be expected to reward many more people with faithful relationships and greater joy, and to enable them to raise their children to continue along the path they have laid out. Beyond the personal benefit that harmonious family life brings, it also furthers the good of society, as people whose family lives are congenial are usually more stable in their work, more capable of contributing to society, and are more successful at encouraging their children to study hard, pursue higher education, learn a profession, and contribute to society and to the nation.

Additionally, the more we succeed in inculcating family values, the greater our demographic growth will be, and this, when accompanied by effective education in Torah, secular studies, and the value of work, benefits society and the economy in all respects. Today, the world is divided as follows: In societies that are highly developed from a scientific and economic perspective, the family is disintegrating, demographic decline is underway, the population is aging, and eventually the economy will suffer as well. By contrast, societies that are less developed scientifically and economically are enjoying demographic growth – but in the absence of economic and scientific growth, poverty is on the rise. We in Israel are successfully creating a society that has both demographic growth and economic/scientific growth. Unfortunately, it is not always the same people who are involved in the two endeavors, but so long as we uphold the values of the Torah as a whole, more people will be successful in both spheres, and thus, economic and scientific progress will strengthen the family, while the family will strengthen economic and scientific progress.

Torah study: In order for all these values to be upheld, we are commanded to set fixed times for Torah study, when we can review all of the mitzvot concerned with honesty and truth and with the value of work and creative endeavor. From Torah study we can draw inspiration for new ideas and find solutions to complicated problems. For this to happen, we need to make sure that Torah study is indeed our holy of holies – both that we regard it as paramount and that everything springs from it, in a way that does not marginalize work and science but rather empowers them. We must also ensure that religious conservatism does not undermine creative freedom or the responsibility to change and repair the world – and conversely, that the valorization of freedom does not keep us from adhering to our ethical and family values.

The blessing

Treading the path of Torah and mitzvot should bring blessing and happiness to families, a sense of idealism to the education system, justice and kindness to society, meaning and value to the individual, innovation to science, industriousness and creativity to labor, stimulation and inspiration to the arts, vigor to the economy, and honesty to business. If, thanks to all this good, Israel’s annual gross domestic product (GDP) increases by “only” two percent more on average than that of other developed countries, if Israeli scientific development for the benefit of humanity advances consistently by “only” two percent more than that in other developed countries, and if our welcome demographic growth proceeds as it has done thus far in the religious sector, then within a few generations the Jewish people living in its own land will number tens of millions and will lead the world in the ethical, scientific, and economic spheres.

Then the Jews of the Diaspora will yearn to immigrate here and be part of our success, while lineages lost to us through the hardships of exile will be moved to seek their roots and return to their people and their land. And a nation – great, mighty, and populous – will bring a message of faith and justice to the world, pave the way for moral education and intellectual development in the service of humanity, create innovative methods and technologies to enhance longevity and quality of life, and see the redemption as envisioned by the Prophets:

And it shall come to pass in the end of days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many peoples shall go and say: “Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:2–3)

Rav Eliezer Melamed is the rabbi of Har Bracha, head of Yeshivat Har Bracha, and author of the weekly column “Revivim” in the newspaper BeSheva.