Israel must find its own meaning to its inheritance - opinion

I think in many ways we exceeded the visions of Ezekiel and Isaiah and we are writing the next book in the Bible. But I also know how much work yet remains to be done.

 IN JUDAISM we literally eat, drink, and breathe for the kids. (photo credit: AYAL MARGOLIN/FLASH90)
IN JUDAISM we literally eat, drink, and breathe for the kids.
(photo credit: AYAL MARGOLIN/FLASH90)

Judaism is all about the generations and never about the “now.” 

It forever lives in a glorious and catastrophic past that simultaneously stretches to a distant messianic future. Our father Abraham enjoyed the blessings of walking with God, but questioned its true value in the absence of a next generation to whom to bequeath it.

That’s because in Judaism, everything is about the children. We literally eat, drink, and breathe for the kids. The very first commandment given to man was to be fruitful and multiply. This is why childlessness is seen as such a tragedy in the Bible. God goes out of His way to comfort the barren who keep His covenant by promising them a yad v’shem (hand and name) better than sons and daughters. But still, it seems secondary at best.

The children become the generations that build the Jewish family and in turn, the Jewish people pushing the legacy of Abraham forward. It would seem though that often enough, the promise of the generations comes into question with the third generation.

The first generation is the one which is gung-ho with their newly discovered truth. They share their excitement and exuberance with the next generation. But that second generation has a hard time giving over to the third generation the passion they rightly received from their parents.

Reading a torah scroll (credit: INGIMAGE)
Reading a torah scroll (credit: INGIMAGE)

The second generation only witnessed that passion, which is fuel enough for them, but makes them poor conduits to the third generation. So the third generation has the challenge to find for themselves their own meaning to their inheritance. The third generation can only build a fourth by recreating a new dedication and fervor to make it their own.

Our forefather Jacob is a good example of a third generation who forged a new and unique relationship with God. But he was only able to do that because he created a new identity for himself and fashioned a different paradigm for his covenant with God. So while Jacob was the Third Generation, Israel became the first.

The twelve tribes of Israel were all second generations, and we don’t hear many positive things about their third generation children except for Joseph’s sons, Efraim and Menashe. Born in exile and away from the greater family, they escaped the third generation hazard by also forging new identities for themselves. In fact, they succeeded so well as to supersede their father and replace him as tribes of Israel.

Experiencing the Third Generation in modern Israel

BUT ONE does not need to look to an ancient past as we are experiencing that third generation right now in Israel.

The first generation were the early pioneers and settlers. They either came as Zionists wanting and willing to establish a Jewish state or as refugees from the Holocaust and Arab expulsions. Upon arrival with a deep dedication to the cause along with a lot of blood, sweat, and sacrifice they established the state and built the infrastructure of Israel. The second generation took what was given to them and allowed it to flourish. Upon the foundations of that first generation, we built great universities, companies, yeshivot, and institutions, and developed amazing technologies while also creating one of the world’s greatest armies. Thanks to them, Israel has a GDP per capita ahead of Canada, the UK, France, and Japan.

And now it falls to us, the third generation, to either take this gift that was given to us and expand upon it, or to God forbid let it all implode. I believe that a lot of the undercurrents of the protests against the judicial reform stem from this third generation’s search for its identity.

By trying to change the status quo, decades-old questions that were once dormant have risen to the surface. Are we a Jewish state or a state of all its citizens? What does it mean to be a Jewish state and a democracy? How do we assert the Jewish character of Israel without diminishing the just rights of those who are not Jewish? How do we define a Jewish state without turning it into a Halachic state? Are we a Middle Eastern country or a European one? Are we capitalists or socialists?

I certainly do not have all the answers, or any answers to be sure, but I do love the questions. As I have said in these pages before, we do not yet know what “this” is. And by “this” I mean this experiment in Jewish statehood and sovereignty. It is all so new and so beautiful and so phenomenal. It is also happening so fast and so beyond the dreams and prophecies of any previous generation. I think in many ways we exceeded the visions of Ezekiel and Isaiah and we are writing the next book in the Bible. But I also know how much work yet remains to be done.

So as a member of the third generation, I will take this gift and its opportunities to continue asking those questions to help find answers that will secure Israel, not just for my children, but the third generation that will come after me. ■