kotel plaza 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
After reliving the dark days of destruction through the reading of Lamentations
and innumerable dirges on Tisha Be’av, how pleasant and inspiring it is to
listen to the prophetic words of comfort that we read this week, “Be comforted,
be comforted My people.” Living in the Babylonian exile, this prophet predicted
the return to the Land of Israel, often using images that were reminiscent of
the great Exodus from Egypt as his paradigm.
Every student of Jewish
history knows, however, that the reality was somewhat less glorious. Yes, the
miracle and the comfort were realized in the decision of Cyrus to permit the
Jews to return and even to rebuild their Temple, but the number of those who
returned was small. The vast majority of Jews chose to remain in Babylonia and
those who did return encountered tremendous difficulties in rebuilding the
Temple and reestablishing the Jewish state. They experienced internal disputes
as well as outside enemies who hindered their work. All in all, it was certainly
no bed of roses and it took hundreds of years before the Second Commonwealth was
well established, and it is unlikely it ever attained the full grandeur of the
Why should we be surprised? The Exodus itself did not
go as planned.
What should have been a quick and easy journey to the land
of Canaan took 40 years and even when they got there, the battle against
Canaanites was much more difficult than envisioned. Furthermore the
in the land did not result in a perfect society, but in the difficult
the period of the judges and constant wars against the Philistines.
the establishment of the kingdom, which was supposed to solve all the
of proper governance, did not work out as planned. The first king was a
and David’s successor Solomon only succeeded in laying the groundwork
splitting of the kingdom into two kingdoms! God may be one, but the
Israel quickly became two and the larger part – 10 full tribes – went
at the hands of the Assyrians and never returned.
IF ANY OF THIS sounds
familiar, that is because our situation today is similar.
of dealing with the situation as it is are always much more complex than
visions that are contemplated for the future. Theodor Herzl could write
and outline a perfect place, a utopian vision of the new
for the Jews. Translating that outline into everyday reality is much
setting pen to paper.
Today, six decades after the dream of a Jewish
state became the reality of the State of Israel, we are painfully aware
chasm that exists between the vision and the reality. We have not
fundamental questions such as the role of religion in the Jewish state.
unsure if the form of government we have chosen is truly the best for
educational system is far from what we would want and, indeed, what we
our society is to meet the challenges of the future. Crime, poverty,
prejudice are all present.
The truth is that no reality can ever match
the dream, but without a dream there is no possibility of improving
vision that underlies the reality of the State of Israel is not only
Herzl but of the entire tradition of Jewish belief and thought that made
dream possible. It is a tradition that began with the ideals of the
then continued with the visions of the prophets and the great rabbis who
Perhaps it is best summed up in the words of God in
Genesis 18:19 concerning God’s reason for choosing Abraham, “For I have
him out, that he may instruct his children and his posterity to keep the
the Lord by doing what is just and right...”
The rest of the Torah is an
attempt to flesh out what “is just and right.”
The prophets chastised the
people when they abandoned those principles.
The establishment of the
people Israel in its own land provided the opportunity to create an
society based on that vision.
The creation of the modern State of Israel
is the third opportunity the Jewish people has had for making this
reality.The writer is the head of the Rabbinical Court of the Masorti
Movement and the author of several books, the most recent being Entering