The Days of Repentance demand collective consciousness – not just individual
striving. The shofar, we are reminded, is sounded for national redemption and
kibbutz galuyot, the in gathering of the exiles – not just for personal
commitment and renewal.
And our society is already struggling with a
refinement of goals and expectations.
The “social revolution” in the
summer of 2012 was a start, the past elections may have marked another landmark,
and there is bound to me more striving and turmoil when current external,
existential challenges recede.
Indeed, the more pronounced our
deliverance, the more accelerated our collective cheshbon nefesh, or soul
searching, is likely to be.
It is widely understood today that socialism
as an economic system does not succeed. Every rule has its exceptions, and it
would seem that if there is a windfall source of income for the society, such as
bountiful oil, a centralized, egalitarian regime can sustain itself for the
duration. But barring such exceptional circumstances, the system does not
Capitalism seems more hearty and viable as a system, perhaps
because it is less dogmatic. Thus, capitalism in the US pre-FDR is not the same
as post-FDR and maybe the same can be said for the LBJ period. The jury is out
on Barack Obama and his preconceptions, of course, but surely the deep and
festering recession caused by the market bubble abuses are likely to lead to
When socialism collapsed in Israel, more than the bath water
went down the drain. For mixed in with the socialist ethos were other ideals and
values which, together, largely energized the building of the Yishuv,
established the state, and put it on its feet. The wellknown dispute between the
writings of Berl Katznelson and of Ze’ev Jabotinsky related primarily to the
labor movement’s espousal of socialism, but there was also the emotional
connection to and identification with historical Jewish sovereignty, the sense
of effecting a revolution of Jewish renewal together, the fervor to renew Hebrew
as a living language, the ideal of labor and direct productivity as a reaction
to the role of the Jewish socher (“merchant”) of the galut, the rebellion
against rabbinic traditions, and many other emotions, beliefs and
It is clear that these crucial ingredients for our tekuma
(“renewal”) have faded – at least in the mature circles of our
But is their fate tied to the expiration of the socialist and
kibbutz movements, or perhaps they are incompatible with the new spirit of
capitalism? For capitalism is based on the individual, his ego, his
self-interest and his struggle against the natural competitors surrounding him.
And this doesn’t mesh smoothly with the collective renewal of a people united to
fulfill its common destiny in its historic homeland, where all must strive
together against overwhelming odds to strengthen its sovereign society, culture
When Jabotinsky proclaimed, for example, that the worker and
employer must not act on behalf of their conflicted parochial interests but
rather must avoid all disputes for the sake of the national objective, he argues
against the essence of the capitalistic weltanschauung, against the very
structure of its mechanism. Although he was a liberal who defended the
commercial class, he argues that national considerations must trump basic
precepts of free enterprise.
My thoughts about our impending national
reevaluation have been spurred by the spirit of the season and sharpened by the
Zionist Beit Midrash established by the Institute for Zionist Strategies and
conducted today in cooperation with the Begin Heritage Center.
weeks, young adults come together from all over the country to study classic
Zionist texts and to debate if and how Zionist principles should be applied
And the contemporary relevance of these principles is truly
These Beit Medrash participants study under the rigors of the
techniques of chavruta and pilpul, and spend hours debating passionately where
our society must head.
The Zionist Beit Midrash is more than an
intellectual experience (and it is surely that): it inspires and gives great
For it demonstrates that the crucial ingredients for our tekuma are
alive and well in expanding circles of our younger citizens even as they lay
extinguished or dormant in the consciousness of their parents.
know how to to reconcile national renewal and solidarity and care for our fellow
Jews and citizens with a vigorous capitalistic economy, but these young Zionists
surely will find the way.
Unlike the differences between Jabotinsky and
Katznelson, I have formed a definite view about the differences between Yosef
Haim Brenner and A.D. Gordon. For like the latter, I am convinced that our
Jewish People and its heritage harbor the raw material and the will to succeed.
I am convinced that deep down, we all know that we are united by far more than
divides us, that our fate is forever intertwined and that we have no choice but
to succeed together as a united people.The author, an attorney in Israel
and the US, is the founding president of the Institute for Zionist Strategies.
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