Wednesday, March 21, 2007

We need to act - My Take on Darfur

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not one of those leftists who tries to connect every religious issue to some humanitarian question. However, there are sometimes things which are impossible to ignore. There is a horrible genocide happening right now in Darfur, and for months and months I’ve been asking myself: is there really anything which we can do about it? And I finally decided that the minimum I could do is talk to you guys about the Jewish view on humanitarian aid and let another speaker give his take on that and also describe the problem in Darfur and what we can do about it.
In one of his most fundamental essays, Rav Kook explains that the Jewish World is divided in 3 different sectors: The Kodesh, The Ouma and the Adam (The holy, the nation, and the man-humanity). The Kodesh is the part which is ultra orthodox, dealing with the religious aspect of am Israel and our religious vision. The Ouma is the nationalistic Zionist people, who, (in the time of Rav Kook), were non religious and just cared about strengthening the Jewish Nation. The Adam is dealing with the humanitarian message, the people in Judaism who care about saving the whole world, who care about socialisme, who care about humanitarian issues.
All 3 of these sectors are incredibly important. In the conclusion of his essay, Rav Kook says that it is extremely important for us to work together in order to create one strong united Jewish Message with all 3 layers, and hopefully, soon, that united message will help us bring the times of the mashiach.

Seeing that his generation was a very special generation in the movement of teshuva of the world, Rav kook explained that there are 3 teshuvas: an individual, religious one, a national one, and finally, a universal, humanitarian one. Rav Kook explained that teshuva is like a shofar, it is narrow in the bottom and wide on the top. The teshuva of am Israel must first start with a narrow, individual religious tshouva, then, the national tshouva will come with am Israel going back to its land and its national essence. Finally, there comes a time where am Israel must help the WHOLE world go in the process of teshuva through humanitarian messages.

In another one of his essay, Rav Kook explained that the kfira (rejection of Judaism) in his days is not completely bad. It is obviously bad, but its source is holy. Unfortunately, during the long years of exile, we haven’t been able to live as a nation. Therefore, our message was limited to a religious message. However, Judaism is not simply a religion, and when Jews were fed this religious message, they rejected it because it was too superficial, it didn’t include the nationalistic message that they were looking for. So they rejected it and went to Zionism. The right thing to do would have been to add Zionism to their religion, and therefore, Rav Kook does say their rejection was wrong, but the shoresh (root) of their rejection was holy (but misinterpreted) because they were looking for some deeper torah which could lead to the bringing of the mashiach.

What was true then is true today. Thank Gd, most of the religious Jews in Israel, and many in chuts laarets, have successfully combined the religious and the nationalistic message of Judaism. These religious Jews call themselves: religious Zionists and they see the religious significance in the establishment of the state of Israel, the return of am Israel on its land and all the other nationalistic successes of am Israel in the past century. For decades everyone in the Jewish World (at least superficially) respected religious Zionists. The religious liked that they followed halacha and the Zionists liked that they served in the army and cared about the jewish nation.
However, about a year and a half ago, the disengagement happened. The disengagement was the worse crises to happen to the religious Zionist community. Whether you were pro or against is not the issue here, the fact is it was a real crisis for the religious Zionist world. But let us try to understand this in a deeper manner. What were the arguments that were leveled against the settlers? People were telling them that it is not fair for the Palestinians to live under the control of the Israeli army, and that we need to stop Palestinian suffering. Again, I am not arguing for or against these arguments! Truth is that everyone knows I was against but that is not the issue here. But it is extremely important to realize that this is a humanitarian argument. People blamed the religious Zionist movement of not being humanitarian. And in some ways, they were right!

I think this is what is happening: The religious Zionist movement has successfully combined the religious and nationalistic message into one powerful message. However, the world is still asking us something more: We still need to add the humanitarian aspect to our message. As long as we do not show the world that we believe that settling the land of Israel is part of a bigger project leading to mashiach which will be the biggest tikkun olam in the world, they will not let us settle there.
As long as we don’t make people understand that building the beit hamikdash will be for the universal good as it will be a beit tfillah lekol haamim, they will not let us build the beit hamikdash.
The same way the whole goal of our individual religious practice, is to strengthen us as a nation, the whole goal of our nationalism is to make tikkun olam : « veescha legoy gadol, benivrechu becha kol mishpechot haadama ». Its a universal nationalism.

Now is the time for the deep, humanitarian message of am Israel to come out. Now is the time for us, as religious jews, as nationalistic jews, to also be humanitarian. But if we are truly humanitarian, how can we stay silent when such a horrible genocide is happening in Darfur? How can we not say a thing as people get killed everyday? Now is the time to look deep into us and to make sure our “humanitarian message” is more than just words connecting our national message to humanitarian ideals, but that it truly is a humanitarian message. How do we know if we reached that level? When we start caring about the suffering of the people in Darfur, and not just fake to care in order to look humanitarian to the world, but really deeply care about them.

I personally do not think that it’s a coincidence that the Darfur Genocide is happening at the same time as the Disengagement happened. The Disengagement was a wakeup call for us to realize our message was not complete. And the Darfur Genocide, as horrible as it is, it is also an opportunity for us to deepen our message to include a humanitarian aspect. As hard as it is, it is an opportunity for us to unite our religious message which, for hopefully most of us, has already been united with the nationalistic message, and to take it to the next level, united with a humanitarian message in order to finally have the message that will be deep enough to bring am Israel to mashiach.

May we all continue to learn the jewish religion from a nationalistic point of view and may we grow enough to combine it with a humanitarian perspective which will lead us to our final redemption.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You got the point. Keep doing well.