- Torah Portion and Tanach
The concept of "Democracy First!" is becoming more extreme in Israel, and especially among left-wingers. The gaps between this extreme approach and the Torah view are widening - cause for great concern among those who wish to preserve the nation's unity. How can such unity be maintained in the face of these widening gaps? In the eyes of those who wave exclusively the banner of democracy, those who speak about the segula (unique holy nature) of Israel, and those who constantly seek to clarify the Torah view on the difference between Jews and gentiles, are racist. And someone who writes and disseminates an article about Israel's segula is liable to be accused of incitement to racism.
But the entire Torah is based on the concept of the Jews as a chosen nation – chosen to fulfill and disseminate G-d's word! We begin each day by reciting in the Blessings Over the Torah, "He Who has chosen us from among the nations and has given us His Torah." When the Sabbath ends, we recite in Havdalah: "He Who differentiates between sacred and profane, between light and darkness, between Israel and the nations." We are the segula nation, and this is why we, and no one else, were given the Torah!
HaRav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, of holy blessed memory, was widely renowned for his love of Israel and his struggle for its unity. He took every opportunity to emphasize that which unites us, our common denominator: our very intrinsic and deep inner nature of segulat Yisrael. It is a more critical aspect of our national character than the way in which we sometimes act in our day-to-day management of our country and society. Our societal gaps in outlook and behavior are transient, but the Israelite-Jewish segula is unchanging. Rav Kook saw this essential nature of Israel as the basis of our natural national unity. The Sages taught that "an Israelite who sinned, remains an Israelite," and that "we are called 'sons' to G-d whether or not we have sinned," even if we don't always act like sons. This holds true even if, Heaven forbid, Israel worships idols, as the Talmudic sage R. Meir ruled in Kiddushin p. 36 (and see Rashba, Responsa 194 and 242).
The reason for this is because we have a Divine, segula-filled soul that will ultimately overcome all the crises. Rav Kook saw this also as the basis for the all-important concept of Ahavat Yisrael, love of every Jew for another. Throughout history, this was what helped us maintain our unity despite all the crises we underwent and despite all our differences. [Ed. note: Witness now the amazing and moving efforts of the State of Israel, with the aid of Jews around the world, to bring home and rescue the Jews of Ukraine.]
However, unfortunately, within our Israeli society today, we sometimes see this essential unity seeming to crumble. Not only that, it seems that the very issue of our segula is the root of our disputes. On the one hand, democracy tolerates a range of opinions, and this openness is actually the very root of what democracy stands for – yet it fights tooth and nail against the view that differentiates essentially between one nation and another.
For the Torah, though, the opposite is true: its fundamental truth is precisely that which the Israeli democracy is fighting against! Our creed is: "You have chosen us from among the nations and give us the Torah… You have raised us up above every tongue…"
And I ask myself: In light of the tensions, is it worthwhile and appropriate to raise and discuss the topic of our segula? Perhaps it is better to refrain from discussing it and thus bring our differences to the fore? But on the other hand, is it possible not to speak about this principle of our faith? The first of the Ten Commandments is based on it: "I am Hashem your G-d!" G-d chose us, and did not attribute this to His power as Creator of the world, but rather to the fact that He took us out of Egypt! That is, He did not emphasize that which unites the entire world, but rather just what is particular to Israel.
In other words, the foundation of our faith is G-d's choice of Israel to be His People – a future light unto the nations – and He will be our G-d, having extricated us from Egypt with great signs and wonders!
Indeed, the gap between extremist, contemporary democracy and the Torah is great, and is a matter of concern for all who aspire for national unity. But our consolation is that our segula will also overcome this passing wave, which will disappear like all the other waves that preceded it. Netzach Yisrael lo yeshaker, "The eternity of Israel will never lie or disappoint" (Shmuel I 15,29)!
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