Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Jewish Idea

"Without a new, profound sense of purpose, Israel’s days are numbered"

Yoel Meltzer
14 Marheshwan 5770/November 1, 2009

Most people are barely cognizant of the fact that many of their actions are a result of ideas that have seeped into the collective mindset of their community or society. A simple and clear example of this can be seen in clothing. In the world of fashion, some guru sitting in Paris develops an idea of a certain type of shirt that should be worn by a particular age group in the coming year. The actual physical shirt is then designed and produced, and then afterwards is cleverly marketed towards the target audience. Unsuspectingly, this audience falls in line and starts proudly wearing the latest "in" shirt. Then the following year, the same guru changes direction and promotes a previous "in" shirt with the not surprising result that once again the target audience follows suit.

While this is an oversimplified example, many societal behaviors and thought patterns can be traced back to ideas that have been implanted into the individual and collective mindset of the society. Frequently this is the result of a cleverly designed marketing campaign, especially when financial or political gains are the goal, although many times it's just a result of ideas that happened to appear at the right time and in the right place and connected to inner feelings and thoughts of the society. Such ideas, which are usually more altruistic by nature, answer to certain needs of the society, be it emotional, psychological, or spiritual.

Anyone somewhat familiar with the state of Israel today, be it a veteran or new immigrant, cannot help but be aware of the many problems that are plaguing the country. From the threat of Iranian missiles to increasing violence, the list goes on and on. Of all the problems, however, perhaps the most pressing for the long-term survival of the nation is the lack of a shared sense of purpose. Whatever held the nation together years ago, mainly the idea of coming together to physically build the country, has long since faded away. In its place, nothing has appeared which has been able to unite the country around a new shared sense of purpose.

Of course there are moments, especially during times of warfare, when the county comes together, but these are just passing moments that have no sustaining power after the cessation of hostilities.

Inspiring the nation
Moreover, parallel to the disappearance of the shared sense of purpose has been a constantly growing feeling of societal cynicism and disgust with many of the state's institutions. It is therefore clear that this country from top to bottom desperately needs to be provided with a new, profound, and lasting sense of purpose. Without it, its days are numbered.

This then is the need, both on an individual and societal level, which must be addressed. What is required, therefore, is the idea to answer this unmet need. Not just any old idea that comes and goes like the wind but rather, something of depth that can affect and inspire an entire nation. Of course the only idea that can possibly satisfy this need of the Jewish people is not surprisingly the old-new Jewish idea.

The intention here is not the watered down "religious idea," an oversimplified system of "dos and don'ts", but rather, the authentic and infinitely more profound "Jewish idea." Although it does include the standard religious aspect, the intention here is to something much broader and deeper which provides a clear sense of purpose and direction for both the individual Jew and the larger Jewish nation. Such a profound idea, based upon a deep understanding of the Jewish sources, history and life, has the potential to literally create a revolution. The Jewish people, and the rest of humanity with them, have the ability to soar to such heights if only the idea would be properly understood and internalized, since ideas are ultimately what cause actions and change societies.

The time is right for the reemergence of the true Jewish idea, the authentic Jewish dream, since the county has never been more in need of a renewed sense of purpose and direction. All that is needed then is the way to disseminate the idea.

Yoel Meltzer has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies and lives in Israel.

Cross-posted on YNET.

1 comment:

A. Michael said...

This is 100% right on.

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