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  • Family and Society
  • Attitude Towards Other Nations

Are Jews/Israel part of Western Civilization/Culture?


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Elul 10, 5779
Are Jews/Israel apart of Western Civilization? How do you know? If not, what civilization are we apart of?
Israel, as a democracy, is clearly part of western civilization, yet, like everything Jewish, is also unique, in that it's a "Jewish democracy", where there are equal rights and freedom of religion for all, yet the predominant culture is obviously Jewish. Yet, as always, we are meant to just take the good aspects, and leave the bad. Rav Kook writes that the God of History reveals constant evolution and advancement of spiritual ideals, just like He created the world through evolution of the physical. Anyone who believes in a Living Eternal All-Powerful God, accepts that the technological revolution took place at the right time for mankind, and were it to be revealed earlier, it would have not been as beneficial. So too, if He revealed western civilization to the world, it's a sign that we're ready for it and it's in mankind's best interest at this stage. The world has matured and knows today that dictatorships are bad, as are exploiting the weak, chauvinism, racism, imperialism, and slavery. This is obviously the will of God who runs the world. On the other hand, that same Eternal God also gave Israel an eternally true Torah, with eternal mitzvot, holidays and culture, which don't "change with the wind" and apply to all generations. In short, God's unity and goodness, are meant to be revealed in everything. Even apparent opposites do unite, as even the dynamic (civilizations) and the eternal (Torah) harmonize in Judaism and in the modern State of Israel. Rav Ari Shvat (Chwat) (Based upon Ein Aya, Brachot 8, 1; Igrot HaReiya 91; Orot HaKodesh II, p. 538; the Netziv, HaAmek Davar, Dvarim 17, 14-16).
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